Ms. Demeanor's Vertical Etiquette

Dear Ms. Demeanor: My building doesn't allow overnight guests if I'm not home. Can they do that?

Concerned about the rise of Airbnb, some buildings are treating guests who stay overnight when the owner isn't home as a form of subletting.

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Question:

I live in a co-op that does not allow sublets. I just found out that overnight guests are not allowed if I am not in the apartment. Can my building really make a rule like that? Signed, A Shocked Host

Answer:

Dear Shocked,

Yes, your co-op can absolutely do that. Every building has rules and before buying in a co-op you should carefully read the proprietary lease. That is where you will learn what is and what is not allowed.

For instance, my building is one of the few in New York City that has no cap on sublets. Others don’t allow subletting unless you live in the building a certain number of years. Then others only allow you to sublet for a specified period (two to five years is typical), and there are those that do not allow you to sublet more than once or twice during your entire ownership. Each building sets the rules and that is what you are obligated to follow.

As far as overnight guests are concerned, buildings that do not allow subletting usually do not allow anyone to stay in an apartment without the owner. My sense is that buildings consider this a form of subletting. And now that Airbnbs have become hugely popular, many buildings are really cracking down on who can stay and who cannot. In my building, relatives are allowed to stay as long as the shareholder wants, but if the guest is a friend, the owner must notify the board and ask for permission.

When you think about it, it really does make sense. Having strangers in the building becomes a security issue. You probably don’t want people who have not been approved by the board to occupy your building. If the shareholder is on site and has a guest who misbehaves, the issue can be taken care of—before things escalate into a bad situation.

After all, how much can you really do about bad guests when you're lying on the beach in Aruba.

Ms. Demeanor


Dianne Ackerman is the new voice of reason behind Ms. Demeanor. She has lived in her Upper East Side co-op for the past 20 years and is the vice president of her co-op board. She is filled with opinions that she gladly shares with all who ask—and some who do not. Have something that needs sorting out? Drop her an email.