How do I add partners to my Fixed Rent Lease?

Q: My partner and I are both elderly. We decided to live together in a flat in New York where I currently live alone, with stable rent. I want to know: If something happens to me, the tenant of record, can he stay in the apartment? We are considering domestic partner registration. Will this help add him to the lease as an additional tenant of record?

A: Domestic partnerships would probably help. But if you and your partner were married, you would make a stronger case.

In a rent-stabilized apartment, the tenant can request that the partner be added to the lease “if the partner became the tenant’s spouse and lived in the apartment as the tenant’s primary residence.” He is a real estate attorney specializing in rent stabilization and rent management and is a partner at Manhattan law firm Graubard Miller.

Other family members may be inquired by the tenant, but approval is up to the landlord.

A non-leasing domestic partner may have inheritance rights upon the resident’s death or permanent eviction of the apartment, but there are some boxes to check. First, the partner must reside in the apartment, and she usually has a two-year minimum, Schwartz said. For seniors (New York’s Rent Stabilization Act defines her as 62 or older), the period is she’s one year.

Tenant families generally have a more direct route to lease inheritance under New York law. “Family is defined by law as either a spouse, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, stepchildren or in-laws,” Schwartz said.

But there is another category. “Other people living with the tenant who can demonstrate emotional and financial commitment and interdependence with the tenant,” he said.

This is where domestic partnerships can come in handy. This typically includes relationship life, shared bank accounts. If you have given each other powers of attorney and if you have made a national partnership declaration. (Read more about eligibility and criteria here.)

However, none of these factors alone are decisive. Domestic partnerships are “one of the helping elements, but it’s not enough,” Schwartz said.

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