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Q&A: Navigating the City’s Complex Housing Market

New York Times

March 14th, 2015


Death and House Cleaning

Q: My mother has lived in a rent-stabilized apartment in a co-op building for 40 years. When she passes away, how many months do her children have to clear out her belongings before the unit must be vacated?

Forest Hills, Queens

A: You will probably have a reasonable amount of time to clean out the apartment after your mother dies. Assuming your mother is living alone at the time of her death, her estate will be entitled to the apartment for the months remaining on the lease, so long as the estate continues to pay rent.

The landlord cannot remove your mother’s possessions from the apartment without obtaining legal possession of the unit. For that, the landlord would need to sue the estate. If the landlord chooses to go that route and prevails, the landlord would be required to maintain your mother’s possessions in reasonably safe storage for 30 days after the successful eviction.

But that scenario is unlikely. Given the expense and delay of litigation, “landlords are strongly motivated to cooperate with surviving families,” said Jamie Schare Friedland, a landlord-tenant lawyer.

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