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The Tenant Blacklist: Are You On It?

Looking for housing in New York City can be a daunting task; it is hard to find the right balance between price, neighborhood, school districts, and even transportation that will make your life as easy and affordable as possible for you and your family. What you might not know is that you might be on a tenant blacklist that could make it almost impossible for you to rent your perfect apartment (or for that matter, any apartment).
It is common knowledge that building owners or landlords will ask prospective tenants for their housing applications, credit scores, and other information, which will help them assess how desirable (and reliable) you are as a tenant. However, what might not be common knowledge is that landlords have access to a tenant screening report, which is a tenant consumer report showing the tenant's housing court record.

These tenant reports reflect any cases or any housing proceedings that were either brought by tenants or their landlords against said tenants; landlords searching for prospective tenants may use this report to screen out "troublesome" tenants.

The Dangers of the Tenant Screening Report

There are a significant number of problems with landlords having this type of information when evaluating their tenants. For example, tenants, under New York and federal law, have the right to bring an action against their landlords for a variety of different reasons (and landlords against their tenants); for example, maybe a tenant withheld rent because the heat and water were not working in the apartment or the landlord refused to deal with black mold. Even if the tenant brought a legitimate claim and won his/her suit, future landlords have access to this information and may decide not to rent to you because of your past. In addition, the housing court report is filed by name, not Social Security number, meaning that if your name is John Smith, you might be held accountable for every action brought by every John Smith in New York City.

Landlords should be able to know to whom they are renting so that they may avoid bad renters, especially as it can take up to six months to evict a bum tenant. Tenants though should also be able to rent in the city and take advantage of their tenant rights without fear of any blacklisting retribution.

The Tenant Fair Chance Act

New York City, in March 2010, signed into force the Tenant Fair Chance Act to extend greater protection to tenants during the housing search. Landlords, under this Act, are required to disclose to the tenant the name and address of the tenant screening company who has created the report. This will allow tenants to see the reports and adjust any inaccuracies or explain to the landlord the circumstances surrounding their housing court challenge.

It is important to keep in mind that by law, the court action must be expunged every seven years, and many of these tenant screening companies do not properly adjust their records. Though Landlords do have a right to conduct background checks, a law like this creates greater transparency within the tenant reporting system and allows tenants to correct any mistakes, records that have not been expunged after seven years, or any misunderstandings within the reports.

NYC Premise Liability Attorneys

Property and building owners need to disclose to prospective tenants, under the Tenant Fair Chance Act, the tenant screening report company that they are using. They also need to abide by New York and Federal laws and not utilize discrimination practices when renting.

If you believe that you have been blacklisted unfairly or discriminated against in your housing application, please contact one of our experienced premise liability attorneys at Keogh Crispi, P.C. Our New York City attorneys will be able to answer any legal questions you may have. Call us today at 212- 818-0600 or send us a message online.

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