Lesbian Couple Win Battle With NYC Landlord

Regina Hawkins-Balducci fought to have her spouse’s name added to the lease for their rent-stabilized apartment in Harlem.

BY Julie Bolcer

August 01 2012 4:03 PM ET

A lesbian couple in New York City scored a victory Wednesday when their building’s landlord and management company agreed to comply with city and state laws and put both women’s names on the lease for their rent-stabilized Harlem apartment.

Regina Hawkins-Balducci had sought to add her spouse’s name to the lease after the couple married this past January. She presented a copy of their marriage certificate to the management company, DSA Management, and the building’s owner, Nicholas Place LLC, but a representative responded harshly and said her spouse’s name would never be added to the lease.

Under New York City’s rent control laws, rent-stabilized apartments allow tenants to pay rents below market rate, making the units among the most coveted real estate properties. The mandated lower rents also make rent-stabilized apartments deeply unpopular with many landlords.

Hawkins-Balducci sought assistance from Lambda Legal. The advocacy group sent a letter on her behalf to DSA Management and Nicholas Place LLC last month. Lambda Legal announced Wednesday that the companies had agreed to add the spouse’s name to the rent-stabilized lease in accordance with the state marriage equality and rent control laws, and parts of the city and state human rights laws.

"We are pleased that DSA Management and Nicholas Place LLC are now complying with New York City and State laws,” said staff attorney Natalie Chin in a news release. “It is unfortunate that the Balduccis had to retain lawyers and go through this emotionally taxing experience to protect their clearly established rights. Other New York State apartment management companies, landlords and building owners should take note: New York same-sex spouses must be treated equally under the laws of New York. The New York rent-stabilization laws are clear: tenants have a right to ensure housing security for a spouse by having their spouse's name added to a rent-stabilized or rent-controlled lease."

Hawkins-Balducci reacted with relief. Her spouse did not wish to be identified throughout the ordeal.

"After months of insults and harassment, we are happy that this issue is finally resolved. If something should happen to either me or my wife, we now know that our housing is secure because both of our names are on the lease,” she said. “Despite all our efforts, it took legal action from Lambda Legal to protect our rights. I hope no other same-sex couple in New York has to go through this just to make sure they have housing security for their family." 

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