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Background: An older gentleman has been living in our townhouse in Brooklyn, NY on the 1st floor with a year to year lease for about 35 years. He also gets a discount in rent for taking care of the building since he performs superintendent duties. The only problem he had with us was his toilet not working during construction but fixed it within a week.

We feel bad not renewing his lease in Jan 2018 but it's getting to a point where we need money to fund the maintenance of the building and need to get someone to live here who can afford the market rent rate.

The Questions:

  1. If we don't renew his lease, how long can he stay if he decides not to move out (while we don't accept his rent checks)? What is the action I would need to take in order for him to be removed from the building?

  2. How long could he possibly live here without paying rent?

  3. Could he file any legal action against us as the landlords of the building?

  4. How many months notice do I give him before telling him that we will not be renewing his lease?

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In NYC, it matters what the legal status of the unit is, viz. rent-controlled, rent-stabilized, or unregulated. If you are not sure, I think these people can tell you. The NY attorney general has a publication outlining the legal situation. If the unit is unregulated, you are not required to renew the lease at the end of the period. If there is an automatic renewal clause, you need to formally notify the tenant that you are not renewing the lease, between 15 and 30 days in advance (and not more than 30 days, so more notice is not a good thing). Regardless of any auto-renewal alause, you cannot accept rent into the new period, since doing so constitutes a renewal. With an auto-renewal clause, it is sort of unimaginable that the lease would force you to renew a lease but only allow the tenant to renew, but that would be something to check. If the tenant hangs on past the end of the lease, you have to start official eviction proceedings to have him removed.

If the unit is rent-stabilized, this sheet summarizes the allowed conditions for terminating the lease, none of which describe your reason: you must renew the lease. Tenant must deliver this form to you between 90 and 150 days of the end of the lease; the amount you can raise the rent is regulated by the New York City Rent Guidelines Board, and presently ranges from 0% to 2%, depending on whether the lease is 1 vs. 2 years.

In case the unit is actually rent-controlled, this sheet spells out the process for raising the rent; basically, you apply to the state Division of Housing & Community Renewal every 2 years and request an increase in the Maximum Base Rate. As with rent-stabilized apartments, you don't have an option to not renew.

  • Buildings with 5 or fewer units, which includes most townhouses, are generally excluded from rent regulation. – phoog May 7 '17 at 21:24
  • Thank you user6726! I'd thank you by your name but don't see it. – Lindsey Jellig May 17 '17 at 12:26

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