If you’re sued for eviction by your landlord in New York state, whether you win or lose the case, your name goes on a list that then gets sold to other landlords looking to screen out potential nuisance renters. Wanting to keep his name and record clean, one Manhattan man has preemptively sued to bar his name from being added to the list.
The tenant has lived in his rent-stabilized, one-bedroom apartment for 17 years and pays the for-Manhattan rock-bottom rent of $1,500/month. But his landlord wants to rent the apartment to someone else and the battle could end up in court. If it does, the tenant’s name goes on the aforementioned list — even if he wins — for upwards of seven years.
“They’ll put me on a blacklist,” says the tenant, who has previously worked as a real estate broker. “If you’re renting an apartment, they check that out. And if you’ve been to housing court, you’re not going to get the apartment.”
Since the list makes no distinction between those defendants sued because they were genuinely bad tenants and those sued by ill-intentioned landlords, this plaintiff is hoping he’ll be able to put an end to the list entirely.
“The only way that [the tenant] can challenge the good faith intentions of his landlord is to challenge a lawsuit,” his lawyer tells the NY Times. “But you don’t ever reach the good faith issue until you’re sued. It’s a Catch-22… The state gives tenants lots of rights, but then the state participates in a process that takes away all those rights. If you can’t assert those rights, you might as well not have them.”
The State Supreme Court in Manhattan temporarily blocked the distribution of the plaintiff’s information, pending the next court date.
The president of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents landlords, said the list is useful in identifying “professional tenants,” who stop paying right after they move into an apartment and live for free until they are evicted, which can take several months. He says he’s fine with more information being added to the list, but that he does “have a problem with precluding using it as a tool.”