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Ask Sam: How long can my family stay with me in my rent-stabilized apartment?

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I've lived in my rent-stabilized apartment for 22 years, and have family coming from overseas to stay with me indefinitely. How long are they allowed to stay in my apartment—is there a maximum amount of time they can stay?


Provided that you'll be staying in the apartment and your visiting family won't cause overcrowding, you're perfectly within your rights to let your family stay with you for as long as you like, says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations

But to err on the side of caution, it's a good idea to double check the wording of your lease. "In most leases, in the first or second paragraph defining 'use or occupancy,' it states that the apartment may be occupied by the tenant as well as family or immediate family," Himmelstein explains. 

"So having family members stay for lengthy periods of time is not a lease violation at all, as long as you're still in the apartment, too, and there aren't so many people staying with you that it constitutes overcrowding," says Himmelstein. (Generally speaking, to be legally considered overcrowded, you'd need to have three to four people per room in the apartment.)

Whether you notify the landlord up front depends on the particulars of your situation (and if you think the landlord will appreciate the information, or try to use it against you), but regardless, if they try to make an issue of it, "You can say 'these are my family members and they're staying as my guests,' and it's not a violation of the law," says Himmelstein. "The landlord can't do anything."

While many leases simply say "family" (which has a broader definition and can include aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.), some will specify "immediate family," which is defined in the rent-stabilization code as parents, children, stepparents, stepchildren, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, parents in law, and children in law. But even if your lease specifies immediate family and the relatives coming to stay are cousins, for instance, "I still think you have a case that they can legally stay with you," says Himmelstein.

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Sam Himmelstein, Esq., represents NYC tenants and tenant associations in disputes over evictions, rent increases, rental conversions, rent stabilization law, lease buyouts and many other issues. He is a partner at Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph in Manhattan.  To submit a question for this column, click here. To ask about a legal consultation, email Sam or call (212) 349-3000.


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