Is It Legal To Get A Roommate In NYC?

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While it’s legal to get a roommate in NYC, there are certain stipulations attached to this right.

The state and city law allows a tenant to share the apartment with the immediate family and one additional occupant and their dependent children. That individual can be classified as a “roommate.”

A roommate cannot be:

  • Yourimmediate family (Parents, spouse, children/step-children). Some sources identify siblings as an immediate family as well (in the roommate law context), but healthy adult siblings might be a point of contention. And they may technically be classified as roommates.
  • Co-tenant that signs the lease with you and is directly connected to the landlord, unlike the roommate who may have an arrangement with you.

A Tenant’s Rights And Responsibilities Associated With The Roommate Law

A landlord cannot forbid you from getting a roommate, but you are legally obligated to inform the landlord about the names, relationships, and ages of any minors living within the premises within 30 days of them moving in as your roommate.

You should adhere to the minimum occupancy laws when getting a roommate – each person should have at least 80 square feet of living space, which does not include common areas, closets, etc.

In a market-rate apartment (which is not rent-regulated), there is technically no cap on how much you can charge your roommate or a law against you charging a disproportionate amount of the rent from your roommate. But if you are living in a rent-stabilized apartment, you can only charge a proportionate share. If there is one roommate, they pay half. If two people are on the lease and there is one roommate, the rent must be split three ways.

Just like a landlord, a co-op board may not have the power to prevent a person from legally occupying a co-op (as the owner with a proprietary lease). They may not even have the right to interview your roommate. But if you are charging your roommate a disproportionate amount and are actually making a profit, you may start blurring the boundaries of roommates and subletters; the latter is usually not permitted in co-ops. In this case, your co-op board may have the power to ask you to go through the entire subletting process, which may have additional costs.

NYC Roommate Good Practices

  • A comprehensive roommate agreementis important. It can prevent you from financial uncertainty if your roommates leave while your lease, for which you are financially liable, is still intact. It can also help you avoid unpleasantness by outlining the rights and responsibilities of all roommates.
  • If you are in a co-op, make sure you understand subletting and roommate rules (if there are any). If you believe some co-op rules are against the roommate law, consult a lawyer before proceeding with finding a roommate.
  • Make sure you, the tenant whose name is on the lease, collect the rent from the roommate and pay your landlord yourself. If your landlord starts receiving money directly from your roommate, it may lead to some legal complications because if a tenant-and-landlord relationshipis established between your landlord and your roommate, the roommate might be entitled to full rights as a tenant.

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