Real Estate: New York/Condominium subletting


QUESTION: Good Morning Mark,

If you could answer the following question I would be extremely grateful.

My wife and I live in a condominium townhouse development in Staten Island. Recently our elderly next door neighbor died and her daughter inherited the property. Having her own home she decided to have her first cousin live in the premises. We have become quite fond of this cousin and his wife over the past year and we were very upset to find out that the condominium board of directors informed them that they have to move out by the end of the year. Apparently the condo by-laws states that only immediate family members can reside in this development and sub-leasing is not allowed.

Can you think of any creative way around this condo by-law that would allow this lovely couple to stay in their home?

Thank you very much for any advise that you could offer!



ANSWER: Hi William,

It is strange that such stringent rules are written into the bylaws of a condominium.  We typically see this more often in cooperative apartments.  I can think a few ways to circumvent this, but they really are not sure fire ways.  The only sure fire way would be for the daughter to marry the cousin, at least on paper.  That would make it very difficult for board to do anything.

You need to find out if the bylaws define immediate family.  Though there is an implied definition, I would assume it is written out.  If it is not written out, then your neighbor may have an argument, though it would be thin.  

For the most part, if the unit is outside and ungated, it would be very hard for the board to really monitor it.  She can keep a separate agreement with her cousin and not send a lease to the board.   Also most condominiums allow owners to register guests.  She could try to re-register her cousin over and over again.  Typically the guest stay is limited to 3 months at a time, at which point, she could try to register again.  We have done this a few times before in tricky situations.  Let me know what happens here, I will continue to brainstorm.

Hope this helps,


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


The marriage idea made me laugh because the cousin lives there with his wife of 25 years (I don't think she would divorce him so that he could marry his first cousin, but you never know).

Immediate family to the board means grandfather, parents, and children of the owner of record.

I'm not sure if they have a guest clause which allows visitors for a three month stretch but given the nature of the board of directors I doubt that they would allow an over and over again registration process.

By the way, the owner never sent the board of directors any lease arrangement with her cousin. Apparently some nosy neighbor informed a board member that a non-owner was inhabiting the premises. Unfortunately there are always people like this in every community.

Thanks for your speedy response and if you can think of any other alternatives I would be very grateful to hear them. I would hate to see this couple have to move from the home that they have grown to love.



Hi William,

I'm just following up.  I have not been able to come up with anything else that might be helpful. You could always contact other owners and make the argument that the inability to sublease in such a tight and successful rental market will devalue the units, as the current demand can make it easier to weed out any potentially bad tenants, as would be the case in a coop.  I figured with a condo as stringent as yours, they might want to consider it.  

Unfortunately doing that may take some time, which you may have not have.  Either way, let me know how this turns out  

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Mark Shemel


I believe I can answer questions in the following sub categories with respect to New York City: Residential Brokerage, Landlord Tenant disputes, Any type of lease questions, any definition pertaining to residential real estate, any questions about property management, most questions about development, construction codes, and housing laws, questions about Section 8, HPD and government sponsored housing. Also corporate and short term housing questions.


I am currently the President of Think Properties NYC, a residential brokerage firm in New York City. I am also President of National Property Management Group. We manage over 1000 Residential Units and 50 retail/commercial units, generally as tax payers or part of mixed use buildings. We handle project management, marketing, and rentals/sales of new construction properties as well.

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), Boutique Brokerage Firm Alliance (President)

New York Times, Real Estate Weekly, Wikipedia, Wiki-answers

Undergrad: Union College Degree: Bachelors Degree, Double Major Economics/French Graduate: New York University Degree: Masters of Science, Masters in Real Estate Development Licensed Real Estate Broker in State of New York

Awards and Honors
Undergrad: Phi Beta Kappa, National Honor Society, Magna Cum Laude

Past/Present Clients
Oakwood Worldwide, JP Morgan Chase (for Relocation), and several other firms.

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