Q&A: Evicting Renters

Q I live in a 140-unit co-op building. The building was built in 1961 and was converted in 1985 under a non-eviction plan. The former sponsor still owns about 20 percent of all the units. These units are either rent-controlled or rent-stabilized. The sponsor has approached me to buy either one of the rent-controlled or rent-stabilized units. He claims that by law now, he has to get rid of the apartments and that if I buy the apartment, then I can ask the present tenant(s)to leave the apartment. He said that I, as the new owner, can do this, but the law does not allow him to do it. Is he right? Can he sell these units to new owners that will force the tenants out without offering them any compensation?

—Skeptical in Manhattan

A “If we give your landlord the benefit of the doubt, then it must be said that he is grossly misinformed; if not, he is a liar,” says Abbey Goldstein, Esq. of Goldstein & Greenlaw, LLP. “Of course, he is correct that he cannot require a rent-stabilized or rent-controlled tenant to vacate, but neither can you. If the law were otherwise, one can easily comprehend that rent-stabilized or rent-controlled tenants in a non-eviction conversion would have, from a practical standpoint, virtually no protection whatsoever. Any sponsor would simply have to transfer a unit to a third party. That would dramatically increase the value of the units to the sponsor while eradicating the very protections a non-eviction plan was intended to convey.

“There is one exception which would apply to a rental building with rent-stabilized tenants. The building’s buyer in that case, under certain circumstances, can evict a rent-stabilized tenant if the buyer plans to move into the apartment himself or have a member of his immediate family do so. That exception, however, is not applicable to cooperatives or condominiums by virtue of specific provisions of the General Business Law, the Rent Stabilization Law and the Rent Control Law.”

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