New York City is a notoriously expensive place to live. Its housing market can create unique opportunities and challenges for couples who are getting divorced.
This may come up when a couple is living in an apartment that is rented below market rate — the spouse who is moving out will have to pay a much higher rent and therefore might need more cash to meet the monthly budget. It is always a challenge to stretch a budget over two homes!
In addition to traditional rentals on the open market, the City provides below-market rentals in partnerships with private developments and much sought-after, rent-stabilized or “rent-controlled” apartments. Divorcing and divorced people are free to take advantage of any of these three options, as long as certain conditions are met.
Succession rights to rent-stabilized apartments are limited to (quotes are not mine) “family members” as defined by the New York City Housing Corporation. Any person wishing to “take over” a rent-stabilized apartment must have lived there for two years. Note: Disabled individuals and those over 62 must have only lived in the rent-stabilized apartment for one year.
Individuals living together in non-traditional families may be designated “family members” based on the following factors:
- Longevity of the relationship;
- Sharing of household expenses;
- Intermingling of finances such as credit cards or bank accounts;
- Engaging in family-type activities together;
- Formalizing legal obligations through such things as wills, powers of attorney, domestic partnership declarations, etc.;
- Holding themselves out as family members in public activities; and/or
- Regularly performing family functions for each other.
A common misconception is that rent-stabilized apartments can be willed or gifted to someone who has never lived there. For a complete list of succession rights and responsibilities, visit the New York City Rent Guidelines Board here.
The Mitchell-Lama program provides affordable rental and cooperative housing to moderate- and middle-income families. There are many more applicants than units available, so placements are determined by a lottery. However, it may be well worth the wait! The complete list of participating developments, as well as publicly available wait lists, can be found here.
There are also a few programs for middle income families run through the City’s Housing Development Corporation. To see what is available now, click here.
Families and individuals who are lucky enough to be financially secure in New York City still often have trouble finding the right housing after divorce. External pressures, such as wanting to live in particular school districts and suitability for pets, often narrow the choices available to them. You can find out which schools are zoned in a particular area (with a school-by-school evaluation) by clicking here.
There is no question that the NYC housing market is tight, but opportunities do exist – for those who are persistent and have a little bit of luck on their sides!
Joy S. Rosenthal, Esq.
Rosenthal Law & Mediation
225 Broadway, Suite 2605
New York, New York 10007
Phone : 212.532.4704