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Can you inherit a loved one's rent-stabilized apartment?

Your widowed grandmother has a rent-stabilized apartment in one of the most coveted neighborhoods in Brooklyn. She's talking about moving in to an assisted living facility within the next few years. You'd give anything to get her apartment when she leaves. How can you make that happen? It's not as easy as them leaving it to you in a will, like they could with a house.

New York City has rules for succession in rent-stabilized apartments. First, you need to have resided with the renter for two years before they vacate the apartment. You may leave for part of that time, but only for things like going away to college or serving in the military. If you're over 62 and/or disabled, the requirement is just one year.

Only spouses can be added to the lease while the renter is still living there. However, since you are a close family member, you would be allowed to take over her lease when she moves out or passes away. Domestic partners can also qualify.

To help avoid problems when it comes time to take over the lease, it's important to have evidence showing that you were actually in residence. The landlord may ask to see things like your tax return, voter registration, driver's license and other documentation showing that this was your address for the required period.

It's often advisable to let the landlord know that you have plans to take over the lease when your loved one leaves, but it's not required. Once they do leave, though, you need to submit a letter to the landlord -- or better yet, have an attorney write the letter -- stating your intention to succeed your loved one on the lease. Let them know the nature of your relationship to them and how long you've lived there. Ask what documentation they'd like you to submit.

The landlord may be happy to have a paying tenant ready to go without having to fix up the apartment and list it again -- especially since new laws have made it more difficult for them to raise the rent when someone moves out.

However, they could decide to try to evict you and even take you to court to get you out. That's why it's best to understand the law regarding succession and seek experienced legal guidance.

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