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17th of November 2018

Real Estate



Can a Live-In Aide Claim Rights to My Mother’s Apartment?

Q: My mother still lives in the Park Avenue co-op that she and my father bought in the late 1970s. Since his death a few years ago, she’s been pretty lonely there, and she is starting to have memory issues. As she does not want to move into an assisted-living facility, I found a college student willing to live in my childhood bedroom in exchange for keeping an eye on her. But my husband is worried that even if the student doesn’t pay rent, she might have a claim to the apartment if the situation doesn’t work out. Is this true?

A: If the college student moves in and later refuses to leave, you may end up in housing court. You will ultimately get your bedroom back, but how long that takes will depend on the type of agreement you establish with her now.

To avoid confusion, be clear about the relationship from the outset. From what you describe, she would not be a roommate who pays rent in exchange for housing, but a domestic worker living in your childhood bedroom because of her employment.

“The best way to position this is to call it what it is, which is an employee-employer relationship,” said Eric D. Sherman, a real estate lawyer and partner in the New York City office of the law firm Pryor Cashman.

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Draw up a contract stating that housing is incident to her employment. New York has a domestic workers’ bill of rights, guaranteeing certain protections. She will need to be compensated according to labor laws, although rent for a room in a Park Avenue co-op may be credited against any salary she receives. Check with your mother’s insurance carrier to confirm that her coverage is adequate, and speak with her accountant about tax issues.

When you no longer need the student’s services, she may willingly leave. If she doesn’t, state law provides an eviction proceeding for former employees, allowing you to begin the process without notice. You would need to take her to housing court to enforce it.

If you charge her any rent, she may claim that she is a month-to-month tenant, meaning you would have to give her 30 days’ notice before beginning an eviction proceeding. “In either case, it does not appear that the student would acquire any legal claim to the apartment,” said Bradley S. Silverbush, a landlord-tenant lawyer at the New York City law firm Rosenberg and Estis.

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