Landlord/Tenant dispute information: Harassers, Harassment, Tenant LAW and tenants right- a collection of info from New York City and state law as of 2013
This is a WORK IN PROGRESS collecting and learning relevant NYC housing and real property law, landlord/tenant law, harassment law, civil law, and more.
I am attempting to learn what is the law relating to our housing situation.
Please note: This information was not prepared by attorneys but by experienced housing organizers and should not be thought of as legal advice.
We are renting a room from a family who has a lease. we use a room in the front of a railroad apartment, and we share their kitchen and bathroom with them.
We pay $600 per month plus electricity (approx $140-$180 per month.)
Recently in bushwick Brooklyn, where we have lived for almost 4 years as targeted individuals, there has been rampant gentrification. The Jewish money landlords (and others) are buying up all the affordable housing and re-renting it to monied whites who are flowing in because of being priced out of all the other local markets.
The poor Spanish and black humans who have lived here for more than 40 years in an affordable community.
This community is under attack by monied landlords, the banks that finance them, and the tenants with money who would pay more because they can.
“It is a sad thing to be denied a safe place to live because our country is becoming more and more evil and people with money conspire with the banks to price out the poor!” Timothy Trespas
INFORMATION and LAW section:
according to ACRIS search of lot and block and building owner and legal/financial history for the building, and with web search of the company name that came up as the ones who holds the deed to the building, I came up with the following information about the owners of the building in which we now reside as occupants who rent a room at the end of their railroad apartment.
- Contact Information: Suydam Street Corp. 5948 Madison St Ridgewood, NY 11385
- Other Information: N.A.
- Entity Status: Active
- Type of Entity: Domestic Business Corporation
- Entity Creation Date: Jan 16, 2003
- Days in Business: 3897 days (searched on sept. 17 2013)
- Employees: Joseph Fragala: Chief Executive Officer, Joseph Fragala: Principal Executive Officer
NYC Real Property § 235-d. Harassment.
- 1. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, within a city having a population of one million or more, it shall be unlawful and shall constitute harassment for any landlord of a building which at any time was occupied for manufacturing or warehouse purposes, or other person acting on his behalf, to engage in any course of conduct, including, but not limited to intentional interruption or discontinuance or willful failure to restore services customarily provided or required by written lease or other rental agreement, which interferes with or disturbs the comfort, repose, peace or quiet of a tenant in the tenant’s use or occupancy of rental space if such conduct is intended to cause the tenant
- (i) to vacate a building or part thereof; or
- (ii) to surrender or waive any rights of such tenant under the tenant’s written lease or other rental agreement.
- 2. The lawful termination of a tenancy or lawful refusal to renew or extend a written lease or other rental agreement shall not constitute harassment for purposes of this section.
- 3. As used in this section the term “tenant” means only a person or business occupying or residing at the premises pursuant to a written lease or other rental agreement, if such premises are located in a building which at any time was occupied for manufacturing or warehouse purposes and a certificate of occupancy for residential use of such building is not in effect at the time of the last alleged acts or incidents upon which the harassment claim is based.
- 4. A tenant may apply to the supreme court for an order enjoining acts or practices which constitute harassment under subdivision one of this section; and upon sufficient showing, the supreme court may issue a temporary or permanent injunction, restraining order or other order, all of which may, as the court determines in the exercise of its sound discretion, be granted without bond. In the event the court issues a preliminary injunction it shall make provision for an expeditious trial of the underlying action.
- 5. The powers and remedies set forth in this section shall be in addition to all other powers and remedies in relation to harassment including the award of damages. Nothing contained herein shall be construed to amend, repeal, modify or affect any existing local law or ordinance, or provision of the charter or administrative code of the city of New York, or to limit or restrict the power of the city to amend or modify any existing local law, ordinance or provision of the charter or administrative code, or to restrict or limit any power otherwise conferred by law with respect to harassment.
- 6. Any agreement by a tenant in a written lease or other rental agreement waiving or modifying his rights as set forth in this section shall be void as contrary to public policy.
It is unlawful for a landlord to restrict occupancy of an apartment to the named tenant in the lease or to that tenant and immediate family. When the lease names only one tenant, that tenant may share the apartment with immediate family, one additional occupant and the occupant’s dependent children, provided that the tenant or the tenant’s spouse occupies the premises as their primary residence.
When the lease names more than one tenant, these tenants may share their apartment with immediate family, and, if one of the tenants named in the lease moves out, that tenant may be replaced with another occupant and the dependent children of the occupant. At least one of the tenants named in the lease or that tenant’s spouse must occupy the shared apartment as a primary residence.
A tenant must inform the landlords of the name of any occupant within 30 days after the occupant has moved into the apartment or within 30 days of a landlord’s request for this information. If the tenant named in the lease moves out, the remaining occupant has no right to continue in occupancy without the landlord’s express consent. Landlords may limit the total number of people living in an apartment to comply with legal overcrowding standards.
Real Property Law § 235-f.
If an owner engages in an on-going and consistent pattern or course of action that is meant to force tenants out of their apartments, tenants should file harassment complaints.
In addition, if a tenant is sexually assaulted or sexually harassed by the building owner or other building personnel, whether or not the intent is to force the tenant out of the apartment, s/he should file a harassment complaint.
There are five governmental agencies that are empowered by State or City laws to handle different types of tenant harassment complaints, as follows:
- New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal
- Manhattan District Attorney’s Office
- New York City Corporation Council (NYC Law Department)
- New York State Attorney General’s Office
- New York City Commission on Human Rights
Tenants in both rent-stabilized and rent-controlled apartments can file a harassment complaint with DHCR if they can prove that the owner:
“…engaged in a course of conduct (not limited to interruption or discontinuance of essential services) which interferes with/disturbs; is intended to interfere with/disturb use of occupancy…has intent to vacate units or demolish structure, failure to secure vacant units or public portions of the building, or decrease, discontinue, interrupt, interfere with essential services.”
Section 61-b and Section 74-b of the Rent and Eviction Regulations
To make a harassment complaint with DHCR, the tenants’ association should ask all of the tenants in the building to complete the (pink) DHCR “Harassment Form.” Contact LHNA or DHCR for bulk copies of this form. The association should make arrangements to help those tenants who may have difficulty in filling out the form.
Since the space for writing is small, the association can attach a detailed cover letter that includes your documentation. This includes documenting the lack of services, letters you may have received from the owner, the dates, specific names, comments that the owner or the owner’s employees may have made to the tenant(s), etc. This letter must show that there has been (or is) an attempt on the part of the owner to force the tenants to vacate their apartments.
NOTE: The DHCR Harassment Unit will NOT take complaints if they are limited to lack/decrease of services. The complaint should also include other issues, such as owner returning rent checks, refusing to renew leases, etc. If the complaint forms and the letter do not show that the owner is trying to get you out of your apartment, DHCR will refer your complaint to the unit that handles lack of service complaints.
All of the forms completed by the tenants should be collected by the person designated by the association, and with the cover letter they should be sent together to:
DHCR Enforcement/Compliance Unit
156 William Street
New York. N.Y. 10038
The Enforcement/Compliance Unit will review the forms and if based on what was submitted they find that the complaint is warranted, they will send you, within three weeks, a docket number. Harassment complaints have a docket number with a suffix of “HL.”
Within five weeks, you will be notified that an “INFORMAL CONFERENCE” has been scheduled between the tenants and the owner, and you will be given the name and telephone number of the DHCR attorney who will mediate the conference.
All of the tenants involved in the harassment complaint should meet and select a spokesperson who can present all of the documentation submitted in the complaint form and cover letter, on behalf of the tenants. Each tenant who filed a complaint form may be asked to speak, so it may be helpful if the group holds a “practice-session.”
During the informal conference, each side will be asked to speak, but there is no cross-examination. The DHCR attorney will ask the owner to(e.g.) make the repairs necessary within a certain period of time, accept rent checks, offer renewal leases, etc.
If the owner agrees, it will be up to the tenants to monitor if (e.g.) the repairs are made. If the repairs are not made, the tenants should contact directly the DHCR attorney who mediated the informal conference.
Most harassment cases filed with DHCR are settled during the Informal Conference stage. (Several “Informal Conferences” may be scheduled before an agreement is reached). If an owner agrees to make the repairs, generally DHCR will consider the case closed.
If there is strong evidence that the owner intends to force the tenants to move, DHCR will prepare for a formal hearing. This can take months, if not longer. If DHCR orders a hearing and makes a finding of harassment against the building owner, they will fine the owner based on the seriousness of the harassment. (This money goes to the State, not to the tenants).
In addition to monetary fines, DHCR has the authority to set any or all of the following penalties against an owner:
- reverting rent-stabilized apartments to rent controlled status
- lien placed against the building for a period of time
- ineligibility for J-51 benefits, etc.
Both tenants and owners have the right to appeal the DHCR decision through an Administrative Review process.
In cases of “criminal harassment” with the intent to coerce tenants into vacating their apartments including,
- PHYSICAL ASSAULT including SEXUAL ASSAULT
- EXTORTION or
- CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT ANY OF THESE CRIMES
tenants should FIRST file a police complaint indicating the circumstances and who was involved. Tenants then should contact the:
Office of the Manhattan District Attorney
Special Housing Unit
100 Centre Street, 7th floor NYC 10013
Criminal harassment can be difficult to prove.
Tenants must show evidence that there was criminal intent on the part of the owner or his/her employees and should be prepared to give the names of the tenants involved, the name of the building owner, the dates and times incidents have occurred, dates and complaint numbers of police reports, and any civil litigation numbers.
The Special Housing Unit looks for patterns in the building, such as change of ownership or management, deterioration of the building, lack of services, a rash of criminal activity, tenants moving out, landlord application for alteration or demolition, bribes to tenants, non-compliance with court orders. etc.
The D.A.’s office will determine if, in fact, violations of the criminal code have been committed. If the case is accepted, the unit will begin to gather evidence and conduct its own investigation to prepare for prosecution.
In cases of sexual assault or sexual harassment by the owner, superintendent, managing agent, etc. and whether or not the intent is to force the tenant out of the apartment, tenants should also file a complaint with the NYC Commission On Human Rights. (See below)
The 1982 New York City Local Law on “WARRANTLESS EVICTIONS” (illegal evictions) states that it is a criminal act for an owner to:
“…use or threaten to use force to induce the occupant to vacate a dwelling unit… to engage or threaten to engage in any conduct which will prevent the occupant from lawful occupancy …not limited to removing the occupant’s possessions from the dwelling unit…removing the lock…” (Amendment to the NYC Administrative Code)
Tenants who are victims of such actions should contact:
NYC Corporation Council
100 Church Street, NY. NY. 10007
Generally called the “illegal lock-out law”, this law prevents an owner from changing the lock on your apartment door and not giving you a key, removing your possessions from your apartment, or threatening to do so by force without going through the legal eviction proceedings in Housing Court.
Tenants should call the police immediately if they are illegally locked out of their apartment. The police responding to the call will ask for proof that you are a legal tenant in the apartment (i.e. lease) in order to stop the illegal lock-out.
This law also applies to tenants who have lived in Single Room Occupancy hotels at least 30 days and tenants in 1 or 2 family homes.
All cooperative and condominium conversion plans must be approved by the Real Estate Finance Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s Office. There is usually a 4-6 month review of each plan, including an assessment of whether the owner or developer has complied with tenant protection laws.
Tenants receive a copy of the preliminary offering plan and have the opportunity to respond. A CONVERSION PLAN CAN BE REJECTED IF EVIDENCE OF HARASSMENT IS FOUND, INCLUDING EXCESSIVE WAREHOUSING OF APARTMENTS.
Harassment complaints, or reports of excessive warehousing of apartments (more than 10% of the units in the building) related to buildings converting to cooperative or condominium ownership should be reported to:
NYS ATTORNEY GENERAL
REAL ESTATE FINANCE BUREAU
Two World Trade Center
While the Attorney General’s office will try to investigate any harassment charges, it is the tenants who must provide documentation for their claims. If possible, affidavits should be obtained from former tenants who moved as a result of harassment prior to the conversion plan.
The Attorney General’s Office may take legal action against the owner and initiate affirmative steps to stop the harassment, delay or deny the plan. The Attorney General also has some discretionary powers to impose penalties and fines.
Complaints related to discrimination in housing, employment, and places of public accommodation because of RACE, CREED, COLOR, NATIONAL ORIGIN, SEX, AGE including FAMILY COMPOSITION, PHYSICAL DISABILITY, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, PRIOR CONVICTION RECORD and SUBSTANCE ABUSE should be made to:
New York City Commission on Human Rights
52 Duane Street
New York, N.Y. 10007
HOTLINE: (212) 964-7000
In March 1986, an administrative judge ruled that sexual harassment in housing situations is a form of discrimination, thus enabling tenants to seek redress through the NYC Commission on Human Rights.
Such sexual harassment can include actual attacks (physical or verbal), or suggestions, threats or innuendoes that repairs, required services, or the granting of an apartment will not be made unless the tenant (generally single women, or women who are heads of households) complies with the sexual advances of the owner or other building personnel. Whether or not the intent of such sexual harassment/discrimination is to force a tenant out of the apartment, a complaint should be filed with the Human Rights Commission.
Tenants who have been discriminated against through sexual harassment should document the incident(s) including the time, place, names, and details. A complaint should be filed with the Human Rights Commission, which will then investigate the complaint and determine if there is merit. Cases accepted by the Commission will be followed through by court action, and all expenses of the hearing will be paid for by the city.
What To Do If You Receive A
72-Hour Notice Of Eviction
A 72-hour Notice of Eviction is sent to you by a City Marshal to warn you that you may be evicted at any time after three days (72 hours) have passed. The Marshal can send you the 72-Hour Notice only after your landlord has gotten a judgment from the Housing Court. A judgment is a decision which says that the landlord can evict you.
To find out what day the Marshal is planning to evict you, call the Marshal at the number listed on the 72-Hour Notice and ask when your eviction is scheduled. If you do not move by that date, you will be evicted by the Marsha unless you can get a court order to stop the eviction.
If You Have Been Illegally Evicted
The only person who can legally evict you is a City Marshal. If you have been illegally locked out of your apartment by the landlord or superintendent, go immediately to your local police precinct. (Ask the police to refer to Patrol Guide #177-11).If the police cannot get you back into your apartment, go to Housing Court and fill out an “Order to Show Cause to Restore Possession.”
Getting A Court Order To Stop An Eviction
If you receive a 72-hour notice of eviction go to the Clerk of the Housing Part of Civil Court immediately. DON’T WAIT. You may be evicted at any time. (The addresses of each borough’s Housing Court are listed at the end of this information sheet).
Ask the Clerk for an Order to Show Cause. This is the only way to stop the eviction and allow you a chance to go before a judge. The clerk will give you a form (an affidavit) to fill out. This is a complicated form which has a series of statements which may apply to your case. Initial those that apply. There are two things you must explain on this form.
FIRST, you must explain what happened in your case before the landlord got the judgment that led to the 72-Hour Notice. If you did not come to court because you never received any court papers (such as dispossess or a Notice of Petition) and you first found out about the case against you when you received the 72-Hour Notice, you should indicate this. If you couldn’t come to court because you were away from home, sick or didn’t know you had to come to court, you should indicate this.
SECOND, you should state your “defenses” – the reasons why the landlord should not evict you. These reasons can include that you did pay the rent, that the landlord is not making repairs or providing services such as heat and hot water or anything else you think the judge should know. Because you will not be able to see or talk to a judge at this point, everything you want the judge to know must be written in your Order to Show Cause.
Once you have filled out your Order to Show Cause the clerk will either take it to the judge and tell you to wait, or tell you to take it to a judge, where you will wait. Do not leave court without your Order to Show Cause signed by a judge or you may be evicted.
Serving The Papers
You will be responsible for delivering a copy of the papers to the Marshal and to the landlord or the landlord’s attorney. You will be given several copies of the signed Order to Show Cause.
FIRST, take one copy to the Marshal’s office.
THEN take a copy to the landlord and/or his/her attorney. Have the person who accepts the papers sign the back of your copy. If they refuse, write down the time, address of the office and a brief description of that person. Sometimes the clerk will write down that you can send the papers by certified mail – but only do this if it is written on your Order to Show Cause and you are certain that your eviction is not yet scheduled.
DO NOT WAIT TO SERVE THE MARSHAL AND THE LANDLORD OR HIS ATTORNEY. THE PAPERS MUST BE SERVED ON THE MARSHAL TO STOP YOUR EVICTION.
The Order to Show Cause will state the day and time you must return to court. Be sure to read it carefully and return to court on that day. You must be on time or you may be evicted.
If You Never Received Court Papers
If you claim that you never received a dispossess, or any legal papers before you received the 72-Hour Notice, you have the right to a hearing on this issue alone. It is called a “Traverse hearing”.- At the traverse hearing, the landlord will have to prove that legal papers were sent to you before you received the 72-Hour Notice. A process server who is hired by the landlord to deliver papers, may testify that s/he personally delivered those papers.
If the judge decides in your favor, the landlord’s case is thrown out of court (although, the landlord can immediately start another case against you). If the judge decides in the landlord’s favor, the judge may allow you to be evicted. The traverse hearing is risky and you may be better off settling the case based on a resolution of the landlord’s concerns and your concerns.
Your Day In Court
On the day you return to court bring your copy of the Order to Show Cause with you. You will need to show in court that you served the papers to the landlord (or his/her attorney) and to the Marshal. If you were allowed to serve the papers by certified mail/return receipt requested bring the receipt with you. Also, if the Order to Show Cause said that you must deposit money into court, you must do it by this date.
Go to the room indicated on your Order to Show Cause and listen for your name to be called. You will either be sent to another courtroom for your hearing or you will go up to the bench to speak to the judge. State your case clearly to the judge and tell him/her what you think is a fair resolution of the case.
If You Have Already Been Evicted By A Marshal
If you have already been evicted by a Marshal you can still go to court and fill out an Order to Show Cause. This may stop the landlord from re-renting your apartment, or removing your belongings, or allow you to enter your apartment to get certain items.
Step By Step Summary
- You receive a 72-Hour notice. Call the Marshal to find out what day s/he intends to evict you.
- Go immediately to the clerk’s office in Housing Court to get an Order to Show Cause.
- If time permits, contact someone, such as the pro-se attorney, who can give you information that might help you fill out the form.
- Fill out the Order to Show Cause – bring it back to the clerk’s window.
- If the judge signs the Order to Show Cause, you will be given several copies – one for the Marshal, one for the landlord and one to keep; the original is the court’s copy.
- Take the Order to Show Cause to the Marshal’s office. Have the Marshal sign the back of YOUR copy.
- Take a copy to the landlord and/or his/her attorney. Have the person who accepts the papers sign the back of YOUR copy. If the landlord refuses to accept the papers, leave them on the desk. Write a statement explaining that the papers were left with the landlord and have it notarized. Attach this to your copy of the papers.
- Go to court on the date shown on your Order to Show Cause. DO NOT BE LATE.
Important You should always seek advice as soon as you receive legal papers. Never ignore papers from the court. If you do you may be evicted. Consult a lawyer or a neighborhood housing organization as soon as possible.
The Housing Parts of the Civil Court are located:
111 Centre Street
New York, NY 10013
141 Livingston Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
927 Castleton Avenue
Staten Island, NY 10310
851 Grand Concourse (at 161st St.)
Bronx, NY 10451
120-55 Queens Boulevard
Kew Gardens, NY 11424
Where to go for help
THE CITY-WIDE TASK FORCE ON HOUSING COURT staffs Information Tables in each of the five Housing Courts five mornings a week (except Staten Island, which is open Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.) The information is free and is available to all unrepresented litigants. Referrals will be made to neighborhood groups and legal services organizations for additional assistance.
If you have a low income, you may be eligible for free legal services. To get the addresses of the legal services office closest to your neighborhood, contact:
The Legal Aid Society
11 Park Place or 230 East 106 St.
New York, NY
Legal Services for New York City
New York, 10029
If you need a referral for a lawyer and you are not eligible for free legal services, contact:
The Bar Association
42 West 44 Street
New York, NY 10010
The Civil Court Info line has recorded information on Housing Court. The number is (212)791-6000.
If you are being evicted for nonpayment of rent, you may be eligible for an Emergency Grant from the Human Resources Administration (HRA), There is an HRA Unit in each Housing Court.
Each Housing Court, except Staten Island, has a Pro-Se Attorney who is there to help persons without an attorney who need advice and Information. The Clerk’s office can direct you to the Pro-Se Attorney in the Court.
THIS INFORMATION SHEET has been written and prepared by the City-Wide Task Force on Housing Court, Inc., a not-for-profit coalition of community housing organizations. This information was not prepared by attorneys but by experienced housing organizers and should not be thought of as legal advice.