Rights of rent-controlled tenants in a co-op building

A few weeks ago I expressed great sympathy for rent-stabilized tenants in a co-op building. They were being harassed by their landlord who was making a nasty and illegal effort to set them up for eviction.

I quoted from my own Proprietary Lease, specifically the non-eviction clause that concerns in-residence tenants who decide not to buy when their building becomes a co-op.

Today’s Times real estate section legally affirms my post in the Q&A column. The question — naive, in my opinion (is the writer a real New Yorker?) — was firmly answered by a lawyer named David Ng, partner in the law firm Karlsson & Ng. Karlsson & Ng happened to have been the firm we tenants retained in the 1980s when we were offered a red herring, and who smoothly negotiated our way into co-op status.

Here’s the Q&A:

A Regulated Tenant In a Co-op Building

Q. We live in a Manhattan co-op that has been completely sold except for one unit that remains under rent control. The original sponsor of the co-op pays the maintenance for that unit, while the tenant pays an extremely low monthly rent. The rest of the building is wondering how long this tenant will be here. Does rent control ever expire?

A. “When a building is converted to a co-op,” said David Ng, a Manhattan lawyer who represents tenants, “nonpurchasing tenants of rent-controlled and rent-stabilized apartments may not be evicted from their apartments unless they breach the terms of their leases or the rent laws.” He says that the rent paid by regulated tenants is governed by the rent laws, which set the yearly increases. In addition, they have a right to remain in occupancy until their death, at which time any family member who has lived there with them for two years may succeed to their rights to live there. “The rent laws were extended in 2011 until 2015,” Mr. Ng said. In the unlikely event that the laws are not extended further, he added, the one that covers such “noneviction” conversions will still prohibit the eviction of such tenants, though they then might be required to pay market rent.

Why is the person who asked that bitter little question asking that bitter little question? Unless he’s the original sponsor — unlikely, given the tenor of his letter — the rent-controlled tenant’s rent isn’t his problem; it’s the problem of the apartment owner, i.e., the original sponsor.

If the apartment owner fails to cough up his monthly maintenance, the co-op can go after him in a variety of ways. But, as David Ng makes abundantly clear, they can’t go after the tenant.


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