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How Housing Court is misused by bad landlords

A recent in-depth article on rent-stabilized housing in New York City and disputes that end up in Housing Court leads off with the assertion that, for legions of people, the term "gentrification" has unsettling connotations. In fact, it is "a dirty word."

It's not hard to see why. Where demand for dwellings is intense and housing stock is limited, there is a natural tendency for rents to skyrocket. Where no regulatory brakes are put on increases, neighborhoods eventually - and naturally - become occupied by only the wealthiest demographic.

And even in places like New York City, where rent-stabilization and rent-control laws have been mainstays for years, the same inexorable push toward escalating rents exists. Some NYC landlords know that they have various means available to sidestep regulatory controls and jack up their lease amounts, and they are not averse to engaging in tactics - some of them unlawful -- to achieve that end.

The above article spotlights many of their employed strategies, including offered buyouts, preferred rents (which are only temporary and can be raised upon lease termination), failure to properly maintain premises and harassment.

And there's this, too: taking tenants to Housing Court on various charges, with the intent being to hound and otherwise intimidate them to simply give up and surrender their units. The aforementioned piece from Nonprofit Quarterly notes that, "Lawsuits are easy to file but onerous to fight," making many Housing Court contests akin to "David facing Goliath" battles.

Evidence shows that bad-faith city landlords make flimsy - sometimes flatly bogus - allegations concerning rent nonpayment and/or other lease violations. Tenants are often frightened by the court process and confused by legal language and procedures.

Moreover, they can simply be fearful of standing up to their landlords. The Nonprofit Quarterly expose stresses that renters challenged by oppressive landlords sometimes "tolerate substandard living conditions as an acceptable trade for a roof over their heads."

That is obviously an egregious wrong that cries out for prompt and material reform.

And it certainly calls for timely and aggressive intervention from experienced pro-tenant attorneys who have made it their life's work to advocate diligently on behalf of renters with housing claims.

We welcome contacts to the Manhattan law firm of Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph from NYC renters facing housing challenges. We make unstinting efforts to safeguard their rights and secure optimal outcomes in their cases.

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