Q&A:Can Co-ops Allow Roommates?

Q I live in a self-managed co-op and we are getting conflicting information about whether co-ops can disallow roommates or not. We've heard that the board of directors has absolute decision making power over whether or not to allow roommates to move into a co-op. Others say it should be voted on by the shareholders and become part of the house rules. Then again, we've heard that it's illegal to forbid or interview roommates. Please advise us as to the legality around this issue.

—Confused Cooperator

A “New York State has a law popularly called “The Roommate Law,” says Leni Morrison, an associate at New York-based law firm Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. “This law allows tenants with leases to have roommates without interference from their landlords. While many tenant protection laws do not apply to cooperative apartments, the so-called Roommate Law does.

“The Roommate Law overrides proprietary lease provisions that limit occupancy because of a non-waiver provision written into the text of the Roommate Law. Therefore, no matter how the lease attempts to limit occupancy to cooperators and their immediate families, a cooperator may nevertheless have an unrelated roommate.

“In New York, the Business Judgment Rule gives cooperative boards an enormous amount of autonomy to make decisions and shields the majority of board decisions from judicial scrutiny. However, the Business Judgment Rule will not shield a board decision that breaks the law. Therefore, the Roommate Law controls and the cooperator can have not only a roommate, but can also house the dependent children of that roommate, without interference from the board and without regard to the orientation of the parties involved.

“It should be noted that the Roommate Law does not go so far as to allow cooperators to circumvent the cooperative’s subletting policies. The Roommate Law only applies to roommates by definition, and therefore, there is a strict concurrent occupancy standard. The cooperator and/or the cooperator’s spouse must also occupy the apartment as his or her primary residence in order to benefit from the protection of the Roommate Law.”

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5 Comments

  • Can the co-op corporation charge the Shareholder a fee for having a Roommate. The Roommate is subletting and paying for a room in the Shareholders apartment and we seem to have a revolving door of sublets and roommates.
  • Does the Roommate Law apply to HDFC COOPS?
  • Can a cooperative impose specific residency requirements on a coop owner if s/he has a roommate? Can I as owner be absent for 90 days or more, or can the coop board require me to be present some number of days or at some frequency?
  • After informing the name of roommate to the board, can the board subject the roommate a certain application fees and interview by the board? Does the roommate or shareholder have to comply?
  • i am a shareholder in a coop . I've lived in the building for 39 years.and i am a performing artist who goes on tour -my coop board which is now comprised of mostly multmillionaires has made new rules and say that if i am not in the apt full time and someone else is there - it cannot be considered a room mate--they also require credit reports for any room mate who is there for over 3 months...also as an owner--is there a limit to what i can charge a room mate--? i charge way below market value for tribeca but not sure what is legal..thank you.shelley