Know Your Rights: Housing Issues after Sandy

By Mass Defense Coordinator, November 27, 2012 1:24 pm

Know Your Rights! FIGHT BACK AGAINST ILLEGAL EVICTIONS!

(Adapted from Organizing for Occupation)

It’s against the law for your landlord to lock you out! (even if you owe rent, & even if the house is in foreclosure). If you have lived in an apartment, SRO, room, or adult home for more than thirty (30) days, a landlord cannot force you to move without taking you to court, even if you owe rent, and even if the building or house is in foreclosure. The landlord has to get an order from the judge before she or he can force you to move. And only a Marshall with a court order can actually move your belongings. If the landlord changes the locks on your door, remove your possessions, or turn off electrical or other essential services in an attempt to force you to move out, you can file an illegal lockout case in housing court. The police are required to assist you to enforce your rights. Illegal eviction is a crime!

Landlords are still required to make repairs to their buildings, even in a disaster. Call 311 to report all conditions in your apartment and common areas in need of repair. You or a group of tenants can start an “HP Action” in Housing Court to get the court to order the landlord to make repairs. If electricity or other utilities have not been restored, you can also name Con Edison (or any other utility provider for your apartment/building) as a party to the lawsuit. If you live in a rent-stabilized or rent-controlled apartment you can also contact the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) to file a request for a reduction in rent due to decreased services; if you have been displaced from your apartment, you can request that your rent be reduced to $1 per month until you have been allowed to return. In addition, you may be able to take your landlord to Small Claims Court for monetary damages due to decreased services or for poor conditions in your apartment (especially if electricity or other disrupted utilities are included in your rent).

Harassment by landlords is illegal. Organize! If your landlord turns off your heat and hot water, damages your room or your personal property, or makes verbal and/or physical threats, report it! Contact a community organization and get help from your neighbors. All NYC tenants can file harassment lawsuits against their landlords in Housing Court. Rent-stabilized and rent-controlled tenants can also file a formal complaint with the DHCR at (212) 480-6732. Your landlord must have a work permit from the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) in order to make alterations in your room or your building. If you see construction going on in your building and there is no work permit posted, report it immediately to the Buildings Department in your borough:

Brooklyn: (718) 802-3675

Staten Island: (718) 816-2300

Queens: (718) 286-0600

Manhattan: (212) 566-0042

Bronx: (718) 579-2942.

If Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) or Department of Buildings (DOB) has issued an order to vacate, you may have to leave, but you have the right to shelter and relocation services. HPD is required to provide emergency relocation services to tenants displaced as a result of fires or vacate orders issued by the DOB, Fire Department or HPD Code Enforcement. If you are vacated from your home and need shelter, contact HPD or the Red Cross. Make sure you have proof of residence. You can also challenge the vacate order in an Article 78 proceeding, but speak with a lawyer first.

Links:

General Housing Legal Resources

Housing Court Answers, providing legal information about housing court: http://www.cwtfhc.org/for-tenants.

LawHelp NY, providing comprehensive legal referral information: http://www.lawhelp.org/NY/

Neighborhood Housing Services, assisting with direct emergency relief loans to 5-borough homeowners: http://www.nhsnyc.org/en/news-and-events/news/236- .

 

Reduction of rent:

Decreased services factsheet: http://www.nyshcr.org/Rent/FactSheets/orafac14.pdf

Application for Individual Apartment reduction: http://www.nyshcr.org/Forms/Rent/ra81.pdf

Application for Building-wide reduction: http://www.nyshcr.org/Forms/Rent/ra84.pdf


General info on repairs:

MFY factsheet on repairs: http://www.mfy.org/wp-content/uploads/facts/HousingGenHousingRepairs.pdf

Housing Court Answers info on HP actions for repairs and services: http://www.cwtfhc.org/information-sheets/hp-actions

Primer on the HP Part by a Housing Court judge: http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1096&context=gerald_lebovits


Small Claims:

Civil Court guide to Small Claims Court: http://www.courts.state.ny.us/courts/nyc/smallclaims/pdfs/smallclaims.pdf

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