Ramifications of New York State's Marriage Equality Act
Q What are the implications for owners of regulated apartments with regard to the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York?
A For many years, the courts have granted same-sex partners succession rights to rent-regulated apartments if there was proof of an emotional and financial commitment with the tenant named on the lease. However, an owner was not required to add a same-sex partner's name to a lease, even if the tenant and the partner were registered as domestic partners, because registered New York domestic partnerships are not legally akin to New York State marriages.
This stance stemmed from a strict interpretation of the Rent Stabilization Code. Rent Stabilization Code Section 2522.5(g) provides that a tenant has the right to have his or her spouse, whether husband or wife, added to the lease or any renewal thereof as an additional tenant where said spouse resides in the housing accommodation as his or her primary residence. In a case decided in June 2006, the court ruled against a tenant seeking to add his domestic partner to his lease. The New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), which enforces the code, refused to order an owner to add a tenant's domestic partner to the lease. The court ruled that a domestic partner is neither a husband, a wife, nor a spouse. Because of the DHCR's decision, the tenant sued to appeal the DHCR's decision. The court eventually sided with the agency's interpretation of the code [Zagrosik v. DHCR, June 2006].
Now, with the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York on June 24, 2011, tenants who marry their same-sex partners are entitled to add their spouse as a tenant to the rent-stabilized lease. So, if a tenant requests that a same-sex spouse be added to the lease and furnishes a New York marriage certificate and proof of joint primary residence, an owner is now required to add the same-sex spouse to the lease. If an owner refuses to add a tenant's same-sex spouse to the lease, the tenant may file a lease violation complaint with the DHCR, challenging the owner's failure to comply with the law. And the DHCR is authorized to order the owner to issue leases in such proceedings, and may impose penalties against the owner.