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Woman Claims Right To Rent-Controlled Apartment After Being Adopted By Former Tenant

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A new twist has emerged in a landlord-tenant dispute over a rent-controlled apartment in Long Island City, Queens.

As CBS 2’s John Slattery reported Tuesday, the now 63-year-old tenant inherited the apartment from a man who adopted her just weeks before his death.

The small apartment house on 47th Road is a great bargain in the city. The rent-controlled apartment with three rooms and a kitchen goes for a mere $100 per month.

“I’m here because I love Nicky D, my father; and this home, and my apartment here – and this is the love of my life,” said tenant Maria DeTommaso.

Nicky D was Nicholas DeTommaso, who died four and a half years ago at the age of 85. He lived in the apartment all his life.

Maria DeTommaso, who has gone by at least two other names, has lived in the unit for 10 years and claims she is entitled to inheriting the rent-controlled apartment.

“Legally, I have succession rights to the apartment because I’m his legal daughter.” DeTommaso said.

Nicholas DeTommaso adopted Maria just a month before he died in 2009.

“He was a father to me, and I was his daughter, and did everything,” she said.

The landlord, who has owned the building since 1980 and lives in the apartment above, does not dispute the adoption. But he does question DeTommaso’s right to succeed the previous tenant.

The Department of Housing and Community Renewal, in April of last year, ruled against her.

“The law said, DHCR said, she’s not entitled to succession rights. She not entitled, because she was only 22 days adopted before he guy died, and normally, it should have been like two years or so,” said landlord Sugrim Outar.

DeTommaso is appealing the ruling. The landlord is trying to get her evicted, allowing the apartment to go for market value.

The court battle will determine whether the apartment becomes rent stabilized at some $1,500 a month, or stays rent controlled at $100 a month.

About 50 percent of New York City apartments are rent-stabilized. Only 2 percent are rent-controlled, which requires that they are in buildings that date from before 1947 and have been occupied by the same family since 1971.

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