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Civil Rights Victory in NYC Rent-Control Tug-of-War

A same-sex couple in New York City scored a civil rights victory when their landlord agreed to add the wife’s name to the rent-controlled apartment unit inhabited by the other before the legal marriage.Our New York City civil rights attorneys are encouraged that the women were successful in getting the landlord to comply with state and municipal laws, but it’s a shame it took the involvement of lawyers to do it.

Most people would undoubtedly prefer to simply work it out on their own and have the company or institution do the right thing. Unfortunately, there are some disputes for which there is no other solution but legal intervention.

In this case, the two women legally married in Ne York City in January. One of the women had a rent-controlled apartment in her name at the time.

The following statutes address situations such as this:

  • New York City Rent and Eviction Regulations, Section 2202.25;
  • New York City Rent Stabilization Code, Section 2523.5
  • New York City Tenant Protection Regulations, Section 2503.5
  • New York State Rent and Eviction Regulations, Section 2102.8

Rent-controlled units are highly-coveted because they are exceedingly rare and offer reduced rental rates. What these laws say, in part, is that either the tenant or their spouse or family member or “adult lifetime partner” must have been living in that apartment since before July 1, 1971. Rent-controlled apartments become phased out if someone moves out.

Rent-controlled units can be passed from one family member to another, but there are specific guidelines governing who is considered a “family member.” It is defined as any of the following:

Husband, wife, son, daughter, stepson, stepdaughter, father, mother, stepfather, stepmother, brother, sister, grandfather, grandmother, grandson, granddaughter, father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, son-in-law or daughter-in-law.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development oversees fair housing under Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which is also known as the Fair Housing Act. This act specifically bars housing discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, color, religion, familial status (including whether a person has young children or pregnant women), gender or disability. It does not specifically protect against housing discrimination for lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgender individuals, however, HUD has indicated they may still be covered in a range of varying scenarios. Each case is going to be different, which is why consulting with a skilled civil rights attorney as soon as possible in the process is your best chance for a favorable outcome.

The plaintiff in this case said that she requested that her wife’s name be added to the lease of her rent-controlled unit. She provided a copy of the marriage certificate along with that request. But the building manager reportedly flat-out denied the request, but gave no explanation other than, “I don’t care what kind of things you present to me… It’s not going to happen.”

The couple have been together for 12 years, though married for less than one.

Threatened with legal action, the business manager changed his stance, and the wife was added to the lease. They claim no wrongdoing, but the fact is, now the original tenant’s wife will have secure housing, should something happen to her.

The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman provides litigation representation in New York City, Long Island, Great Neck and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375 or send us an e-mail.

Additional Resources:
Lesbian Couple Win Battle With NYC Landlord, By Julie Bolcer,

More Blog Entries:
Race Discrimination Alleged at NYC Banks, July 27, 2012, New York City Civil Rights Attorney Blog