Starting a tenants' association

If you have issues with your landlord, you are probably not alone. If you feel you are being singled out for harassment, including bad maintenance or unfair rent increases, there's a good chance your neighbors are experiencing the same thing.

There's no need to suffer alone. A tenants' association is both easy to form and often very effective, plus it offers you additional protection. Here is how to get one started in your building.

How do you create a tenants' association?

Under New York real property law, a tenants' association is any organization of two or more people who band together and call themselves one. There is no formal incorporation or any other process necessary.

It simply starts with talking to your neighbors and deciding to band together, rather than fight as individuals. Once you agree to collective action, you are a tenants' association.

Why should you start one?

As Sam Himmelstein, a partner at our firm recently noted in Brick Underground, the benefits to being a tenants' association are numerous. As an association, you can:

  • Claim any action taken against you, including eviction, is retaliatory for your taking positive action to protect your rights by forming an association.
  • Share legal costs should you need to hire an attorney.
  • Level the playing field economically and legally.

For these reasons, it is almost always to your advantage to form an association. If nothing else, the peace of mind you gain from not being alone is invaluable.

Is there a downside?

The only real downside is that as a group you may choose to make decisions that you do not like. But the increase in power you will find against your landlord usually outweighs the problems. There is always power in numbers.

In addition, it's probably best to not mix rent-stabilized tenants and market-rate tenants in one group. Anyone renting at market rate has fewer protections against large rent increases and is not protected against groundless evictions and refusals by the landlord to renew their leases, so they are more likely to be wary about participating. It also could constitute a conflict of interest for any attorney your association might choose to hire.

How can we get help?

If you or your new tenants' association needs a consultation on your rights as a renter, it's always good to consult an attorney with experience in tenants' rights issues.

The bottom line is simple - you are not alone. There is always more power working together, and a tenants' association is a simple and effective way to stand up to your landlord.

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