The rules are almost always different for co-ops, and that is most certainly true for occupancy issues. One of the initial reasons for the co-op ownership structure, both on the part of the those already living there and those buying in, was to keep tight control over who your neighbors are. While much has changed over the decades relative to this concept of “exclusivity” and accompanying discrimination, boards still have a good amount of control over occupancy, particularly with respect to subletting.
Picture this: supposing your employer has just offered you the unprecedented opportunity to live in Paris for a year in a corporate apartment in the heart of the 6th arrondissement. The deal even includes a car. But you promised your 22-year-old daughter that she can move back in with you for two years before she goes to medical school. She’s even landed a job doing research at Sloan-Kettering. So she needs to save everything she can for medical school and rentals don’t come cheap anymore.
This, can she live in your co-op while you and your spouse are off doing the ‘ex-pat thing’ for a year? Sadly, the answer is a flat-out-NO!
Julie Schechter, a co-op/condo attorney and associate with Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads in Manhattan, explains: “Technically, it’s like a sublet. It’s usually paragraph 14 of the proprietary lease that deals with use and occupancy, but usually per standard language, which appears in most proprietary leases, an apartment can be occupied by the shareholder and the shareholder’s family. It runs off a list, basically it’s immediate family. It will say ‘brother,’ ‘sister,’ ‘child,’ ‘parent,’ ‘grandparent,’ or whatever. That language has been interpreted as the ‘shareholder and’, with the word ‘and’ being taken to mean simultaneously living with the shareholder while the shareholder is living there but not in the shareholder’s absence.
"Putting your child in your apartment while you are away? No good," she continues. "It would require board approval and the board might even consider it a sublet and charge a fee.” Of course, the corporation bylaws would have to provide for sublet fees. In Schechter’s experience, they usually don’t.