Can I sublease my NY apartment while I'm gone for 1-2 years?
January 14, 2014 1:07 PM   Subscribe

Our apartment in New York is rent stabilized and we love the neighborhood it's in. I was very, very lucky to find this place back back when I was single. But in April we are moving to London temporarily (maybe for two years?) because of a job my wife has taken. The dream scenario is that we could leave our furniture, find someone we trust to sublease to, and have the option to come back in two years. Or if things go terribly in London we could come back earlier. But there's a complicating factor and I don't even know if the rules would allow us to sublease for very long. Details below.

The building, a brownstone in Brooklyn, is in the process of being sold. Our current landlord is a nice guy and probably would be amenable to us finding a subtenant, but I know nothing about the potential new owners and I don't know what stage the sale is at. All I know is that I'm about to renew the lease and our current landlord wants to know if I'd like to re-up for either one or two years so he can tell the new owners. If the new owners want to convert the building to single family or want to go co-op we can deal with that. I'm ok with flying back to NY to move our furniture into storage at some future date if that becomes necessary because I know there are laws about how this process happens.

So the main question I have is regarding the rules about subleasing. I know you can sublease a rent-stabilized apartment only if you maintain it as your primary residence. How would this be defined? Can we be gone for a year or two and still call it our primary residence? Does it matter that we're leaving temporarily because of my wife's job and she's not on the lease? If the new owners take over before we've moved to London, could they just refuse to approve a subtenant since they know we're leaving soon?
posted by theory to Law & Government (8 answers total) to the rescue

With questions and answers such as "Am I legally entitled to sublet my rent stabilized apartment?" and "How long can I sublet for?" is run ny, so appears to be legit
posted by larthegreat at 1:11 PM on January 14, 2014

I am not a lawyer. I used to be a housing advocate in NYC. Rule is 2 leases, up to 4 years. Landlord would have to have a good reason for refusing a subletter. Best part is that you do genuinely intend to return. All these citations and more can be found on housingnyc above. In practice this should not be a problem unless the ll wants to make it one.
posted by skbw at 1:22 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I know nothing of NYC laws, but I would *imagine* that if you re-sign a 2 year contract with current owner, including specific wording in there expressing that you are allowed to sublet, then it would be harder for the new owners to say no - don't they inherit your contract and have to abide by it?
posted by Joh at 2:09 PM on January 14, 2014

I know people who've been allowed to do this in the past. It's worth talking to your current landlord about, since you think he'd probably be amenable to it.

The big clincher, if your landlord is OK with it, is finding the right subletter. The friends who've done this before did it by having a close and trustworthy friend move in. This will also be helpful in your case, since it sounds like this potential subletter's living situation might fall apart at short notice if the buyers want to evict everyone and turn it into a single family home.

You mainly need someone you can trust to be a good tenant, who is flexible enough to put up with some potential weirdness depending on the new landlord.

Also, yes, if the new owners take possession before you leave, you could be well and truly fucked. But then, you could be fucked by them anyway, so it's a risk you take regardless.
posted by Sara C. at 2:28 PM on January 14, 2014

I would be very cautious about taking advice from strangers on the internet about subleasing a rent-stabilized apartment in New York City. Do something wrong and your landlord can evict you. Retain the services of competent counsel.
posted by dfriedman at 4:13 PM on January 14, 2014

You need to be on DHCR's website. You need to be Googling phrases like rights of RS tenants to sublet, and rights of RS tenants after the sale of their building. Or, as dfriedman says above, you need to retain competent counsel for a consultation. Consultations are not that expensive, relatively speaking.

RS in NYC is incredibly complicated and no conscientious tenant-side lawyers are going to give you advice online. As a RS tenant, you have a lot of protections post-sale, but you need to either ascertain them on DHCR's website or get a lawyer to explain them to you in person, after you show them your documents.
posted by lassie at 4:45 PM on January 14, 2014

Definitely not a lawyer. It would be a good idea to consult one, because the lease is much more valuable than whatever the attorney's fee would be. Stabilized (and controlled) units generally remain stabilized/controlled after sale. The building can go co-op and the stabilized/controlled tenants can continue to rent.

One correction to what I said above--sublet is ok up to 2 leases or TWO years out of 4, two 1-year leases, not 4.

One potential issue is if the new LL wants to take over a unit for himself or family to occupy. That is one situation where he could evict you (a/o your subletter).

This does not have to be a huge deal. If you do everything by the book and the new LL doesn't want to owner occupy your apt., then you have a lot of rights.
posted by skbw at 6:37 AM on January 15, 2014

Response by poster: A little update:

After doing more research it's clear that in our situation we would NOT be able to sublease our rent-stabilized apartment legally. A cool landlord may allow it, but since we know nothing about the future owners it's not a risk we can take.
posted by theory at 1:31 PM on March 1, 2014

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