i’m obvs not a lawyer & this is obvs not ~official legal advice,~ but some tips on tenant life, keeping yr rent down, & fighting displacement in our city –– important because it’s rly bad for music when only rich ppl live comfortably!! (see: the bay (sorry, but… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯))
if you want me to add/change anything, shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org, subj. TENANTS.
ALL nyc renters
those of us who are new to nyc (like me tbh; only since 2013) have even more of a responsibility to fight the displacement of our neighbors; the best way to achieve that is to be informed & organized, & justfix.org makes both easy af.
whether you want to join / form a tenants union or just don’t want to be a sucker, first steps are to request your rent history* (takes 30 seconds!!) & check out yr building using justfix’s “who owns what” tool.
*yr rent history will be sent by mail, addressed to “occupant” at address you provide, return address from ny’s dept of housing & community renewal; yr name won’t appear on the envelope or paperwork as addressee. zero risks: it’s legal, confidential, no one will be notified that you did it. nyc noise slogan for requesting yr rent history is jfc don’t be a little bitch, do it already!! if your apartment was never rent-stabilized, then you will not get a rent history :'( BUT you might as well ask; this is the best way to find out what records exist, & hey maybe yr apt was illegally deregulated!! (read more: on high rent vacancy deregulation; justfix’s rent history 101.)
if rent stabilized
RENT-STABILIZED apartments are a blessing & responsibility; if you find one, you should fight to keep your rent low, & if you move, you should request a lease transfer / assignment to the new tenants. once a lease is transferred, you’re not legally culpable for anything the new people do, so it doesn’t matter if you met them yesterday on craigslist (tho def say they’re “friends”) –– you save the landlord the trouble of finding new people & continue the occupancy to reduce rent increases; that rules!!! (some info here.)
request yr RENT HISTORY. …srsly!!! if you get a rent history & are stabilized, look for big increases. if your landlord increased the rent more than was legally permitted, you may be able to file for rent overcharge, which can mean getting your rent lowered –– or even getting reimbursed for what you overpaid!!! before june 14, 2019 it was easier to make large increases, but even then landlords were limited to 1/40th the cost of improvements; do the math, ask neighbors who have lived in the building longer if they remember hella renovations, & see if the rate & # of increases seems reasonable (& check out justfix’s Rent History 101.)
“preferential rents” are now base rents during a given occupancy; this is a reason to hold onto a lease, & a reason your landlord cannot hella increase your stabilized apartment to the “legal rent.” if you’re paying the preferential rent, then that is your legal rent!!!
rent guidelines board rates dictate the max a landlord can increase the rent of a stabilized unit –– but aim lower, & request a 2-year lease!!! in ’22, my landlord gave me a lease renewal with the 3.25% max increase. i said i’ve been a great tenant, plan to stay, etc., & wanted 0%; when they wouldn’t go for that, i requested a 2-year lease at 1.5% & got it. my apt’s rent is $126 lower than it would be if i’d signed off on the max increase for ’22 & ’23.
maybe your landlord isn’t making requested repairs, or it’s cold af, bugs, leaks, WHATEVER –– there are things you can do!!!
for temp issues, know that HEAT SEASON is october to may (full months). if it’s <55º outside, then during the day (6am-10pm) yr apartment needs to be at least 68º; at night (10pm-6am), 62º. also, 68º is colder than you thought (womp).
for that & everything else…
1) request your rent history!!! (f’real!!!)
2) look up your building (justfix)
& click “hpd building profile” to see complaints, violations, etc. if you see units w/ problems, that’s a great place to start efforts to…
3) talk to yr neighbors
you really can just knock!! say hi, that you’re their neighbor from apt #whatev, & (if they have a minute!) you wanted to introduce yrself & ask if they’ve had issues with [x/y/z]. share your concerns & experiences, ask about theirs, & ~bond~ over landlord frustration. 🥰 if it seems chill, ask to swap numbers & keep each other up-to-date on developments (even if they haven’t had problems yet, always useful!!). pro tip = bring your rent history in case increases come up, & see if they’ve gotten theirs. down the road you might consider coordinating actions (like requesting repairs, 311 calls, hpd actions, & withholding rent) or even forming a tenants union!
relatedly, financial transparency rules. understand that you may be paying way more than your neighbors, or vice versa –– whatever the situation, it isn’t something personal or of your choosing; it’s information / inspiration in yr fight to have the lowest rents possible!!
4) DOCUMENT everything.
get thermometers for the hottest / coldest zones in your apartment; periodically take pictures of issues (& illegal thermometer readings) & add the date to beginning of file names (“yyyy-mm-dd-[DEFAULT].jpg”) for ease of reference; label or tag email correspondence for ease of lookup, & make a master document with a record of all exchanges (w/ landlord &/or management) about issues, including texts, emails, date-time of phone calls, etc. store all of this in a dedicated folder on your computer *&* in google drive (or another cloud-based service); every few months, zip & email yourself the bundle.
5) request repairs
…using this wicked (link’d) justfix tool. fill in everything you need fixed, & they’ll generate a letter which you can approve & have sent through usps certified mail to create a paper trail. (you can also check out their overview of how long a landlord has to make repairs.) request repairs through text, email, & mail (above); if your landlord doesn’t address your concerns, you should start to…
6) call 311 (up to 2x per day) & provide your contact info so you can let in any visiting inspector. you need to get an inspector in the building to see issues, file violations, & get your landlord fined; this is the best way to get them to make repairs, & necessary before any legal next steps. (you can file a complaint anonymously, but it’s harder to get an inspector in if you don’t leave contact & unit info, which is why i recommend trying landlord directly & then doing this on record.)
this is another great time to ask your neighbors if they have issues; tell them how quick & easy your 311 call was, & ask if they’ll trade numbers to make sure someone can let in inspectors. many landlords pay attention when violations start happening –– tho if this doesn’t work, don’t despair…
7) consider housing court! i recommend reading this ny courts overview, the legal aid society’s overview of repair & service rights, & (if you’re serious enough to get into the ~grit~) justfix’s overview of HP actions. you could be entitled to a rent abatement & eligible for a refund of rent your landlord didn’t deserve if your apartment hasn’t met the full “warranty of habitability.”
wanna start yr own?
if you wanna start a tenants union, then the obvs first thing is to talk to your neighbors; i don’t recommend having the first time you say “hi” be to request a meeting (tho that’s up to you i guess, i’m obvs sympathetic to vibe of ~sucks at small talk but gets shit done~…). also good = check out what ppl are doing in your neighborhood / community (that’s what the below is for!).
if you live in brooklyn, sign up for updates from brooklyn eviction defense (tho note that they’ve temporarily paused their intake program). BED’s been very active about helping form tenants’ unions, whether a single-building/complex association or a “tenant council” of multiple buildings under shared ownership (read up on recent efforts, check calendar); they can also quickly mobilize community members in emergency circumstances like an eviction defense. to join, read & fill out their tenant union commitments & privileges pledge.
click for a v incomplete but much cleaner ~google sheet~ of below (will fill in asap sry)
MGMT-based tenants unions
–– greenbrook tenants coalition: greenbrooktenants.org + @greenbrooktenants // “a community of tenants from over 240 buildings in New York City, all of which were bought by the private equity firm known as Greenbrook.”
BKLYN tenants unions
–– 345 eldert tenants association: @345eta + fb group // this building was already a shitshow pre-pandemic (i moved out 3/1/20), & i saw more craziness from other Carnegie Management buildings while working the census, V GLAD this crew filed a class action
–– broadway starr tenants union: @broadwaystarrtenantsunion + fb group // “Tenant’s association for people who rent from Rupert Lowtan” aka Deodat Lowtan // 45 buildings: 206 Bleecker St. • 242 Central Ave • 244 Central Ave • 1412 De Kalb Ave • 1567 De Kalb Ave • 1287 Greene Ave • 293 Harman St. • 834 Hart St. • 840 Hart St. • 912 Hart St. • 930 Hart St. • 237 Himrod St. • 248 Himrod St. • 251 Himrod St. • 282 Himrod St. • 170 Irving Ave • 184 Irving Ave • 241 Irving Ave • 1514 Jefferson Ave • 315 Jefferson St. • 207 Knickerbocker Ave • 756 Liberty Ave • 760 Liberty Ave • 275 Linden St. • 399 Linden St. • 279 Menahan St. • 1481 Myrtle Ave • 309 Palmetto St. • 464 Pulaski St. • 165 Stanhope St. • 187 Stanhope St. • 189 Stanhope St. • 191 Stanhope St. • 315 Stanhope St. • 32 Starr St. • 88 Starr St. • 336 Starr St. • 338 Starr St. • 241 Stockholm St. • 402 Suydam St. • 166 Wilson Ave • 193 Wilson Ave • 48 Wyckoff Ave • 62 Wyckoff Ave • 251 Wyckoff Ave
east new york / brownsville / cypress hills:
–– 248 arlington ave: @248arlingtontenants
flatbush / little haiti / plg:
• flatbush tenant coalition (@flatbushpower)
–– 1834 caton ave: @1834catontenants // building owned by Goldmont Realty
–– 355 lefferts ave: @355leffertsaveta // in prospect lefferts gardens; “We are a group of tenants in a rent stabilized building. We are fighting for affordable housing for all! We are part of @tuftenants [Tenant Union Flatbush]”
–– 30 linden blvd: @30lindenblvd11226 // building owned by Juda Stern + 30 Linden Blvd LLC, tied to a massive portfolio sharing cash & personnel, incl. [MORE BAD GUYS:] Emily Kramer, Michael Wolfe, Bobby Sher, Jim Goldstick, Mary Fischer, Douglas Elliman Property Management
–– 221 linden blvd: @221tenantcoalition
• greenpoint: @greenpointtenants
–– 219 13th st.: @219tenantsbk // building owned by Michael Shah & Delshah Management LLC
• sunset park: @sunsetparktenantsunion // last post ’21
QUEENS tenants unions
• astoria: @astoriatenantunion
–– 89th st. tenants unidos: @89sttenantsunidos
• queens neighborhoods united (site down; fb page + @queensneighborhoodsunited): “Anti-BID collective of community folks in Corona, Elmhurst, & Jackson Heights fighting criminalization & displacement in our communities since 2014.”
• flushing anti-displacement alliance (fight4flushing.com + @flushing_ada): “The Flushing Anti-Displacement Alliance are residents & workers resisting displacement from politicans & corporate interests.”
BRONX tenant unions
MNHTN tenants unions
–– gateway tenants association: gpta.org
harlem / hamilton heights:
–– 141 st. tenant’s group: @141tenants
–– 617 w. 141st: @617w141ta
• lower east side: good old lower east side: goles.org + @golesnyc // “Keeping people in their homes + community since 1977 // The Tenants United Will Never Be Defeated; Los Residentes Unidos Jamás Serán Vencidos”
• cooper square committee: coopersquare.org + @coopersquare // “Non-profit community organization on the Lower East Side. We do tenant organizing, counseling, small biz, greening/resiliency, & housing development.”
• stuytown: stuyvesant town & peter cooper village tenants association (STPCV–TA) + @stpcv_ta
–– independence plaza north tenant association (IPNTA)
–– @uptowntenants // “We live + organize in bldgs impacted by PE firm Sugar Hill Capital Partners through its affiliates Tri-Hill Management + Choice Management.”
• park west village (UWS): pwvta.org // 784/788/792 Columbus Ave + 372/382/392/400 Central Park West
nyc loft tenants: [site down] + @nyclt
right to counsel: righttocounselnyc.org + @righttocounselnyc // “The #RTCNYC coalition is made of tenants, organizers, and lawyers! We led the fight to make it a right to have a lawyer if you face eviction in NYC!”
tenants and neighbors: tandn.org + @tenantsandneighbors // “We are a grassroots organization building tenant power across NY since ‘74 to strengthen tenants rights, preserve affordable housing & keep NY diverse”
[will check later!] inactive / uncertain / adjacent
@123pulaskitenantassociation // likely inactive: no posts or site // “Tenants fighting building-wide eviction by 123 Pulaski Holding Co / “Community Solutions Group” // Bed-Stuy, Bklyn
@almacouncilsoftenants // likely inactive: no posts or site // Alma Realty
@flatbushtenantcoalition (now @flatbushpower) // earlier social (last posts 2013); since this has been replaced, not sure if accompanying website (flatbushpower.org) is still contacting the right people…? // “A coalition of tenant associations working together to build tenant power in Flatbush, East Flatbush, and South Crown Heights, Brooklyn.”
@goosetenants // posts from 2022 w/ Brooklyn location; site is dead, not sure what buildings etc.?
@longislandtenantsunion // likely inactive: last posts 2015
@mahfartenants // likely inactive: last posts 2015; “The Mahfar Tenants Alliance was founded to deal with issues in Samy Mahfar and SMA equities buildings. 113 stanton st., 102 Norfolk St, 22 Spring st.”
opera house tenant union // likely inactive: link is to withfriends; website & twitter down, @opera_house_tenant_union last posted 2020 // Bushwick, bklyn
@plgnanyc / “Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Assocation” // active, but not sure what this is; no sign of tenant organizing, & buildings in the neighborhood seem to be working with Tenant Union Flatbush instead // “Uniting and empowering the tenants, homeowners, workers & merchants of the PLG neighborhood and the larger Flatbush community since 1968.”
stabilizing nyc: stabilizingnyc.org + @stabilizingnyc // last updates 2019, but site’s up… ? “Stabilizing NYC is a coalition of sixteen housing organizations and a legal provider that fights and organizes for stronger tenant protections.” // Bronx groups: Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association, North-West Bronx CCC, Mothers on the Move, CASA; Bk: uhab, Fifth Ave Committee, Flatbush Tenant Coalition, Impacct Brooklyn, St. Nicks Alliance; Queens: Catholic Migration Services, Woodside on the Move, cchaya CDC, CAAAV; Manhattan: Housing Conservation Coordinators, Cooper Square Committee, Asian Americans for Equality, Good Old Lower East Side
stopsunnysideyards.com + @stopsunnysideyards // in queens, last updates 2021
west side neighborhood alliance // likely inactive: last updates 2016