Many landlords in New York have found themselves in a predicament when a tenant dies in an apartment and the New York City Police Department have sealed the apartment. If a landlord’s agent asks the NYPD to remove the seal when the investigation is complete, most of the time, the NYPD will tell the building owner to “go to Surrogate’s Court”. This is because in New York, when a tenant dies during the term of his or her lease, the lease passes to the estate through its’ expiration. In most cases, the landlord does not have the right to simply take back possession of the apartment. The landlord certainly cannot break the NYPD’s seal.
This does not mean that the apartment will remain unoccupied for eternity or even until the lease expires. The solution for the landlord is to receive a surrender from an authorized representative of the estate.
If there is a will and that will is offered to probate, the solution is simple. Once an executor has been appointed, the executor can surrender the apartment to the landlord. But what if there is no will or the will was never offered to probate? In that scenario, certain family members can be appointed by the Surrogates’ Court to be the Administrator of the Estate. If there is no family member willing to become the Administrator, then the landlord can move as a creditor for the appointment of the Public Administrator to the Estate.
The Public Administrator will eventually surrender the apartment to the landlord and coordinate with the NYPD for removal of the seal.
The Law Offices of Jordi Fernandez specializes in cases like these where Surrogate’s Court and Landlord-Tenant law meet. Please feel free to contact Jordi Fernandez if there you have an issue like this or need guidance on a similar issue.