Adding or removing a name from a lease

In Rent Stabilized Apartments

Can I add my spouse to my rent-stabilized lease?

Yes. If the apartment is rent-stabilized, you can ask the landlord to add your legal spouse or legal domestic partner to the lease at any time. You do not have to wait for lease-renewal time. Simply write a letter to the landlord asking that your spouse be added to the lease, and send the letter by certified mail, return receipt requested. Your landlord is not entitled to charge you a rent increase for this. You can include a copy of the marriage certificate or certificate of domestic partnership if the landlord asks for proof.

If your landlord refuses, you can file a complaint with New York State Homes and Community Renewal using Form RA-90, Tenant’s Complaint of Owner’s Failure to Renew Lease and/or Failure to Furnish a Copy of a Signed Lease, or simply keep a copy of the letter in which you stated your request with proof of mailing for future use. The Rent Stabilization Code states that a tenant “shall have the right to have his or her spouse, whether husband or wife, added to the lease or any renewal thereof as an additional tenant where said spouse resides in the housing accommodation as his or her primary residence.”  

Can I add other family members to my rent-stabilized lease?

In a rent-stabilized apartment, the landlord is not required to add anyone to a lease except for a spouse. You may reach out to the landlord and ask for a family member to be added to the lease, but the landlord may refuse. There is nothing a tenant can do to force the landlord to add the name of anyone other than a spouse. However, keep the following in mind:

All tenants have the right to have immediate family members live in the apartment with them as long as the apartment does not become overcrowded. No permission is required and it is not necessary for these people to be named on the lease.

In rent-stabilized and rent-controlled apartments, certain family members may have succession rights – the right to remain in the apartment and take over the lease and tenancy – if the primary tenant moves or dies. For more information, read our fact sheet on succession rights.

If the landlord agrees to add someone’s name to a lease, it can be considered a “vacancy lease” even though no one is moving in or out and could result in a possible risk of losing any “preferential rent” agreement with the landlord. Tenants may wish to consult an experienced tenant lawyer before signing a new lease.

Can I add my roommate to my lease?

If you want to add the name of your roommate to your lease, you both can make this request of the landlord, but the landlord may refuse. There is nothing a tenant can do to force a landlord to add anyone’s name to a lease with the exception of adding your spouse’s name to your rent-stabilized lease.

If you live in a rent-stabilized apartment and the landlord agrees to add your roommate’s name to the next lease, it is considered a “vacancy”, even though no one is moving in or out. That means if you have a “preferential rent”, adding a new name can mean risking losing your preferential rent.

How can I remove someone’s name from my rent-stabilized lease?

In cases where there is more than one person named on a rent-stabilized lease, the names of some tenants may be removed from a lease-renewal while other tenant(s) may choose to renew.

Removing one or more names from a rent-stabilized lease does not trigger a “vacancy lease” on renewal and the landlord is not permitted to revoke a “preferential rent” agreement, if you have one, and raise the rent to the legal regulated rent.

To request the removal of a name from your lease, the remaining tenant(s) and the departing co-tenant should send a certified letter to the landlord. The landlord should always check that the person whose name is being removed wants to be taken off.

If one of the co-tenants dies, the remaining listed tenant(s) should write a letter to the landlord and ask that the name of the deceased be removed from future lease renewals. Proof may be required, such as a death certificate.

If one of the co-tenants has moved away and cannot be reached – or has moved away and refuses to cooperate – the primary tenant may explain this in a letter to the landlord.  The primary tenant can ask that the other person be removed from the lease renewal. Explain the situation and provide supporting documentation if requested. Be sure to indicate that you remain in the apartment and do want to renew the existing lease.

How can I remove my own name from a rent-stabilized lease?

If you are leaving a rent-stabilized apartment and one or more co-tenants are remaining or you would otherwise like your name removed from a lease with multiple names or signers, you will need to write a letter to the landlord asking to be removed from the lease and that you are giving up rights to the apartment.

If you are the sole leaseholder and you would like to move out of  your rent-stabilized apartment before your current lease is up (or if all co-tenants agree they want to move before the lease is up), please see our page about breaking or assigning your lease

In unregulated (“market-rate”) apartments

In an unregulated (market rate) apartment, all terms – including the occupants – can be renegotiated when a new lease is being signed. This means you can request to add new names to your lease if and when a renewal is offered. Your landlord is not required to add any new names to your lease at renewal. The new lease is not valid until it is signed by all parties. Please see our page on roommates for more information on your right to have a roommate or live with family members