In New York, it’s perfectly legal for someone to live with you without being on the lease. If you want to replace roommates—or bring in a roommate for the first time—you’re required to inform your landlord, but you don't need their permission as long as you follow the rules. The most important thing to know is that you have to provide them with the full names of the people who move in within 30 days of the start of their occupancy.
There are also laws protecting New York tenants who want to live with their family members. As long as your name is the only one on the lease, you have the absolute right to let all of the following people live with you:
- One additional occupant: According to New York's "Roommate Law,"1 you can have one unrelated adult living with you in your rental at any given time. They don't have to be on the lease.
- The children of the additional occupant: If the additional occupant (the person who's not on the lease) has any dependents, they can also move in.
- Immediate family: The law doesn’t define who counts as immediate family, but another law in New York does define this phrase—and the housing courts have carried that definition over to this statute. Immediate family means spouses, kids, stepkids, parents, stepparents, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and parents- and children-in-law.2 Sorry, step-grandparents, you don’t count as immediate family—and neither do boyfriends and girlfriends.
What if I'm on a lease with other people?
If your lease names multiple tenants (including you), your ability to bring in unrelated occupants is more limited. At any given time, the total number of people residing in the apartment (both tenants and occupants) cannot exceed the number of named tenants on the lease. So, if three tenants signed the original lease and two move out, the remaining tenant could legally bring in two unrelated people and their kids—as well as any members of their own immediate family.
And regardless of how many people are named on the lease, tenants in New York always have the right to live with their immediate family members.
What about occupancy limits?
There's one more caveat when it comes to adding roommates in New York. According to state law, for every person living in an apartment, there must be at least 80 square feet of space (not including closets, bathrooms, or hallways). So if you live in a cramped West Village studio, it's probably not legal for you to move your entire family in, plus a friend and their parents—regardless of what New York's "Roommate Law" says.
What if I want to officially add my roommate to my lease?
If you want to add a new name to your lease in New York, you’ll have to get your landlord to agree. Unlike new occupants, which don't require landlord approval, your landlord is under no obligation to let you add anyone new to the lease until it expires.
There's one exception to this rule: if you live in a rent-stabilized apartment, you get married, and your new spouse moves in, your landlord is required to add him or her to the lease at your request.3
In all other situations, you'll need to carefully ask your landlord for the green light to add someone to the lease. You should expect—especially in Manhattan in the spring or fall—that they will ask to renegotiate your lease at higher rent and have you sign a new lease, instead of simply adding someone new.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.