Housing Clinic Helps New Yorkers Know Their Rights

Housing law experts conduct the Housing Clinic and offer free consultations.
Housing law experts conduct the Housing Clinic and offer free consultations
Lawyer Jane Li of the Urban Justice Center’s Community Development Project meets privately with a Housing Clinic attendee.
Lawyer Jane Li of the Urban Justice Center’s Community Development Project meets privately with a Housing Clinic attendee

New York housing law is a bit like an aging mansion: so many renovations and additions have piled up over the years that it’s become a bewildering maze of old and new. Many protections exist for tenants, but in order to exercise them, you have to know what they are and how to use them.

That’s where Goddard Riverside’s monthly Housing Clinic comes in.

On the first Wednesday of every month, our Law Project teams up with the Urban Justice Center to hold a workshop on an aspect of housing law. Lawyers from both organizations, along with pro bono volunteers from the law firm of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, also meet individually with people who need help or advice.

January’s clinic was the first of two focusing on succession: the right of family members to take over a lease when a close relative dies or moves away. Some 30 attendees listened closely and asked questions as Law Graduate Stephanie Storke outlined the differences in succession law among rent-stabilized, rent-controlled, private, and public housing properties.

One of the people listening closely was Josiane Hird, who is facing a succession crisis of her own.

“I could be thrown out even though I’ve been in my apartment for 20 years,” said Hird. She found the Housing Clinic “extremely informative and very helpful,” and she also took the opportunity for a private consultation.

“I spoke to one of the lawyers and he gave me good advice,” she said. “I’ll definitely come back for the next session.”

“The Goddard Riverside Law Project provides legal representation and organizing support for low-income tenants,” said Law Project director Shafaq Islam, “and a big part of our work is helping tenants know and understand their rights. The Housing Clinic gives people an in-depth guide to various aspects of housing law and provides them with a great opportunity to educate themselves.”

Helping people use their housing rights isn’t just good for individual tenants; it’s also a key strategy to prevent homelessness. Since 2010, New York City rents have risen twice as fast as wages, according to a study by the real estate website StreetEasy. When low-income tenants are forced out of apartments they’ve lived in for years, it’s often impossible to find an affordable place to live — and they are in danger of winding up on the streets.

The clinic is sponsored by City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal. “Tenants are faced with a maze of housing issues, and as an elected official it’s my responsibility to make sure they are equipped with tools, knowledge, and assistance,” said Rosenthal. “I’m very proud to continue to sponsor these clinics for the fourth straight year and look forward to continuing to help tenants stay in their homes.”

The remaining Housing Clinics for the 2017-18 season are as follows. All clinics are from 6 to 8 pm at Goddard Riverside’s main building, 593 Columbus Ave. (at 88th).

2/7 Succession Rights II and Apartment Sharing: Roommates, Sublets, Short Term Rentals (Illegal Hotels)

3/7 When the landlord wants you to go: General Harassment, Construction as Harassment, and Buyouts

4/4 Eviction prevention: Residency Challenges, Clutter, Unapproved Alterations, Overcrowding and Nuisances

5/2 DHCR I: IAI and MCI Issues

6/6 DHCR II: Failure to Provide Lease and Rent Overcharge Application