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Rent Coach: Sneaking by the board to sublet a co-op

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Q. I am trying to rent a co-op apartment from its owner, but we would like to avoid filing an application with the board. 

If the owner tells the board that I am a family friend and will not be paying rent, can I move in without completing their application and paying their fees?

A. The short answer is “probably not.” 

First of all, if the board were to discover at any time that you were in fact a tenant and not a family member, they would likely immediately move to evict you.  Beyond having to move out with little notice (assuming you didn’t fight the eviction), you would have a Housing Court record that could make it very difficult for you to rent apartments in the city in the future.  The owner who you are renting from would likely be fined and the co-op’s legal bills forwarded to them for payment. 

If you rely on subterfuge to sublet, it would also be important to know what the co-op’s bylaws say about providing possession to family members: It may not be as hassle-free as you think. 

Each building has its set of rules that can vary dramatically and that often define in great detail what “family members” can make use of the apartment (e.g. children and spouses may be OK, but cousins may not be).  If an owner were to try to slip one past the board, it would be wise for them to get very familiar with the rules of the co-op first.


Mike Akerly is a New York City real estate attorney, landlord, and real estate broker. He is also the publisher of the Greenwich Village blog VillageConfidential.  

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