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Mayor DeBlasio is fighting back against illegal evictions

Every human being has the same basic needs. Food, clothing and shelter are among the most fundamental.

But, in New York City's often-brutal rental market, securing adequate shelter is harder than it needs to be. Landlords push illegal evictions on tenants, knowing their renters don't have the resources to challenge them. Mayor Bill DeBlasio's administration is working to put an end to this.

Evictions are down, legal aid is increasing

The problem is this: the landlord has the backing of a powerful attorney. Their low-income tenant, on the other hand, can't afford to hire a lawyer. So, even though the eviction violates the law, the tenant loses and is forced out of their home.

The solution is giving tenants access to legal help of their own. To this end, the administration has increased funding for legal assistance, allowing renters to fight back and win. In the past two years, the city provided close to $46 million for legal aid for tenants.

The results have been staggering. Last year, evictions were down 18 percent, even though the number of cases filed only decreased by 2 percent. The total number of evictions was the lowest since 2004.

Additionally, the increased funding has allowed the city to provide assistance to renters at risk of losing their homes, and to proactively reach out to tenants whose landlords are forcing them to live without heat, hot water and other critical services.

You have a right to fight back against unfair landlords

New York has strict rules that govern what landlords can and cannot do. Unfortunately, many landlords don't follow these rules, especially when they expect their tenants to be uninformed or too scared to push back.

If you are involved in a dispute with your landlord, or you are being treated unfairly, know that you have rights.

It is always a good idea to get help from someone who knows the law and knows the tricks landlords use to get around it. You'll be better off with an advocate on your side. If you can't afford a private attorney, don't be afraid to ask your local legal services organization for help.