The high cost of living in New York is no secret. It may be contributing, at least in part, to D.C.’s current thrashing of New York in our 2010 March Madness competition.

But could New York’s expensiveness also be contributing to… a wave of rampant illegality in NYC? If you’re a Gothamite, is your living arrangement in violation of the law?

Well, how many roommates do you have? The New York Times reports:

Doua Moua, 23, played a menacing gangster in a Clint Eastwood movie, but Mr. Moua swears he really is a nice, gentle and rules-abiding fellow. At least he was until he moved to New York City and unwittingly slipped into a world of lawlessness.

Mr. Moua lives with five roommates. And in New York, home to some of the nation’s highest rents and more than eight million people, many of them single, it is illegal for more than three unrelated people to live in an apartment or a house.

To be sure, most Biglaw attorneys don’t have roommates. And many of them — not just partners, but associates — live in very nice apartments. E.g., Colin Kelly, an associate at Paul Weiss; Mari Bonthuis, an associate at Covington & Burling. But we wouldn’t be surprised to learn that some of our paralegal or law student readers have three or more roommates. (Dormitories don’t fall under this law, but many NYC law students live in private housing.)

The good news, though, is that it’s more of a legal problem for landlords than tenants. And violators are unlikely to be pursued anyway. Perhaps the law hasn’t fallen into desuetude, but it might be getting close:

The law, for decades part of the city’s Housing Maintenance Code, is little known, widely broken and infrequently enforced. Three citations have been issued since July, according to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

Will the NYT article lead to a few more? The residents interviewed for the piece did speak on the record, providing their real names (although their landlords, the folks who might actually get into trouble, did not).

So New Yorkers, consider yourselves warned: three’s company, but four is… illegal.

In New York, Breaking a Law on Roommates [New York Times]
Have You Seen the Closets? [New York Times]
From Bachelor Pad to an Adult’s Home, for $8,000 [New York Times]

Earlier: Open Thread: Lawyerly Housing Woes


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