Q&A: Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Q “My boyfriend and I live in a co-op apartment. The mortgage is in my name but he is listed as a co-resident of the apt. If we break up, is there a chance that we would have to sell the co-op to split the ownership of shares? What legal rights does he have with the co-op? We are not engaged or married and we've lived in the co-op for approximately two months.

—Curious Significant Other

A “Although the writer does not expressly state so,” says attorney Phyllis Weisberg of the New York firm of Kurzman Karelsen & Frank, LLP, “we assume that the shares and the proprietary lease are held solely in the name of the writer. We also assume the mortgage note was signed only by the writer and, therefore, the mortgage obligation is the writer's alone.

“Absent a legally recognized relationship, such as marriage, and absent the boyfriend being named on the shares, the writer's boyfriend has no property interest in the shares that could be enforced upon a break up of the relationship. He, therefore, could not compel a sale of the shares or a transfer of the proprietary lease if the couple breaks up.”

“In addition, while the boyfriend's occupancy was noted on the mortgage application, unless he is a co-obligor on the note, the lending institution did not rely on his credit in extending the loan.”

“Therefore, his absence from the apartment cannot be used by the bank as a basis to declare the loan in default and force a sale. In conclusion, if the pair breaks up, assuming no written agreement exists between the two dealing with their respective rights and obligations in such a situation, the writer could not be compelled to sell the apartment.”

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