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Braschi v. Stahl Associates

    Brief Fact Summary. A same-sex couple lived in a rent-controlled apartment, however, only one tenant was the tenant of record. After one tenant died, the apartment owner ordered the remaining tenant to vacate the unit.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. A family in a rent-controlled apartment, are those people who reside in a household with all of the normal familial characteristics, even if those people are not related by marriage, adoption or blood.

    Facts. Miguel Braschi (Plaintiff) and Leslie Blanchard lived together in a rent-controlled apartment until Blanchard passed away. The two men had been life partners for ten years. Blanchard was the only tenant of record. Stahl Associates Company (Defendant) informed Plaintiff that he had no right to occupy the unit and ordered him to vacate the premises. A New York statute on rent control stated that only family members of the tenant of record could continue to live in apartment units after the death of the tenant of record, but it did not define what constituted a family.

    Issue. When determining if a person should be allowed to remain in a rent-controlled apartment after the death of the tenant of record, should the term ‘family’ include only those related by blood, consanguinity or adoption?

    Held. No.
    The intent of the anti-eviction provision of the rent control law is to restrict the landlord’s ability to evict a certain class of occupants other than the tenant of record. The provision does not concern inheritance of real property, but instead protects people from the sudden loss of their home.
    The term family should not be narrowly construed. The protection against sudden eviction should be based on the realities of family life. In the context of eviction, a family can include two adult life partners who have a long-term relationship characterized by an emotional and financial commitment and interdependence. The term family is intended to protect those who reside in homes having all the normal familial characteristics.
    This definition of family will protect those who have considered the apartment as their family home when the tenant of record dies. It will preserve the family unit.
    To determine if a person is entitled to non-eviction protection, an objective examination of the relationship of the parties should be made. This included looking at the length of the relationship, the level of emotional and financial commitment, and how they held themselves out to the public.
    Here, the men lived together as life partners and were regarded by outsiders as spouses. They attended family functions together and shared financial obligations. It can be concluded that they are a family, under the rent-control provisions.

    Dissent. The purpose of the provision is to create succession rights to the real property when the tenant of record dies. Under estate succession laws, family relationships are determined by blood, marriage, and adoption. These relationships have certain legal obligations that are not imposed on unrelated individuals. Such an interpretation promotes certainty and consistency in the law.

    Discussion. The court decided to define what constitutes a family in broad terms in order to protect a larger class of people, including unmarried couples. After the tenant of record dies, the court decided that the others living in the household should not have to worry about being evicted from their home.


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