Manhatten-based digital content producers Zachary Bennett and Karen Nourse have been living in the suburbs of New York for more than six years without paying rent.

According to legal documents, the pair quit paying their $4,754.02 (NZ$6,766) monthly rent in 2010 and now owe $410,000 (NZ$583,000) in rent and electric charges, their landlord claims.

The couple, which have two children, say they have a right to live in the apartment rent-free as they are the only residents in a building, which is made up of commercial units and businesses, the New York Post reported.

Bennett and Nourse claim they don't have to pay rent as the building does not have a residential certificate of occupancy, according to court papers filed for a lawsuit.


The New York Post reported that before 2010 the pair had been paying rent. This was before the US Loft Law was expanded to protect "people whose apartments are in mostly commercial or industrial buildings."

Lawyer for the pair, Margaret Sandercock, told the New York Post that the building "did not comply with the Loft Law".

"The owner is not entitled to collect rent and my clients are not required to pay rent," Sandercock said.

Loft Law applies to buildings with at least three residential tenants, but the pair are the only residents, Harry Shapiro, the landlord's lawyer told the New York Post.

"They can stay if they pay," Shapiro said. "The unit is legal . . . We really don't want to evict them. We just want them to pay the rent. They're getting all the services but the landlord got zippo."

Sandercock disagrees. She said at the time when the Loft Law was changed, there were other residential tenants in the building.

"For the building to be safe and legal for them to live in, the law requires the landlord to have a residential certificate of occupancy," she said.

Sandercock said the building was unsafe, but defended her client' choice to stay rent-free, the New York Post reported.


"They're entitled to be there," she said.