Q&A: Can My Boyfriend and His Home Attendant Live in My Co-op?

Q. I am a shareholder of a co-op. The co-op's bylaws state that only shareholders and their immediate family members can live in this co-op, but the board permits my live-in boyfriend, who is not a shareholder and who has some mental issues and sometimes abuses sleeping pills and alcohol. His doctor has recommended the presence of a live-in home attendant to take care of him, but the board of directors is pushing back, claiming that the attendant is not a direct family member, and threatening to evict my boyfriend and the attendant. But I see other older owners' home attendants are allowed to live in the building. Does the co-op have the right to evict my boyfriend and the home attendant? 

Seeking Help for My Companion

A. “As the owner of the cooperative apartment,” says Lisa A. Smith, a partner at the New York City law firm of Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP, “New York’s “Roommate Law” (Section 235-f of the Real Property Law) permits the letter writer to have one additional occupant in addition to immediate family members, provided they live with him/her in the apartment. Thus, the writer’s boyfriend is permitted to reside in the apartment with him/her as her roommate. Similarly, an elderly shareholder in the building may have a live-in home attendant as that shareholder’s roommate under the law. The writer in this case is seeking two roommates – the boyfriend and the boyfriend’s live-in home attendant. While it is difficult to surmise whether the boyfriend’s condition is in fact a disability, the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) requires housing associations to make 'reasonable accommodations' in their rules and policies in order to permit those with disabilities equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. Having a live-in home attendant could be viewed as a 'reasonable accommodation' for the boyfriend, and it is probably not in the board’s best interest to contest it. Given the physician’s recommendation, it also makes practical sense to have someone watch the boyfriend rather than leave him unattended for long periods of time.”

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