NYC rent strike / withholding resources
April 3, 2020 1:29 PM   Subscribe

My building is attempting to organize. Housing Justice For All promised a toolkit available April 1, but I don't see it on their website. What resources should my building be aware of? How should we go about exploring various options?

I'm mostly trying to find information about legal obligations, risks, rights. I'm expecting this will be a fluid situation, and that it's going to get much worse by May 1. My building is also a mix of free market and rent stabilized units, and I'm not sure how the risks/rights/obligations change given the status of the apartment.

Some questions off the top of my head:
- how do we interpret the data we can find in ACRIS and property tax websites? From what I can see in the tax forms, my landlords appear to owe no taxes as long as they have a mortgage. That seems...insane? Is that a thing?
- how can we find out what other properties our landlord owns? The owner of this building is a single LLC, but I know the landlords have other buildings. Is there any way to find out what their other holdings are?
- does anyone have any guidance about best practices here? Some tenants already asked for a reduction in rent until the crisis is over, and the landlords flatly rejected this. Some tenants are on fixed incomes and have rent stabilized apartments and are therefore probably fine; others probably won't be able to make May rent.
- how would I go about finding out how landlords are likely to retaliate? what are their options, legal and not legal?
- any other resources you can recommend?

Thanks for any help you can provide! I expect a lot of buildings are going to be in this position, so, you know. Anything that helps.
posted by schadenfrau to Law & Government (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Eviction Courts are Closed and Evictions are Suspended in New York State! (Housing Justice For All FAQ)
This means that during this health crisis, landlords can't sue, there will be no evictions, and all courts that hear eviction cases are closed. The moratorium applies to both residential tenants (in all types of housing) and commercial tenants. There will be no evictions of any kind, for anyone, as long as the moratorium is in place.
Going on Rent Strike in NY During COVID-19, Guide and Resources (via Right to Counsel NYC via FAQ: What to do on April 1)
posted by katra at 2:30 PM on April 3, 2020 [2 favorites]

With Cuomo Silent On Relief, Some Desperate NYC Tenants Say "There's No Choice" But To Rent Strike (Gothamist, Mar. 30, 2020)
Both advocates and housing attorneys caution that a decision to withhold rent as a building should not be taken lightly, and that tenants should first consult an attorney [...] Those interested in organizing their buildings should consult the Legal Aid Society (212-577-3300), Legal Services NYC (917-661-4500) or the Met Council on Housing (212-979-0611). Additionally, the Met Council on Housing encourages prospective strikers to text “Rent Strike” to 33339 (use “Huelga de Renta” for Spanish). [...] Nothing in the above article should be construed as legal advice.
posted by katra at 2:52 PM on April 3, 2020 [2 favorites]

A Coronavirus Rent Strike Could Leave Renters Vulnerable (Buzzfeed, Mar. 27, 2020)
For a rent strike to be successful, some tenants unions say, neighbors need to work together and present landlords with clear demands. The Philadelphia Tenants Union has been circulating a document with tips. It advises talking to neighbors one on one and warns against mistaking online enthusiasm for actual commitment. “The people who respond to a post in a community Facebook group will be a small fraction of the fellow tenants you will need on board for successful collective action,” the document says.

A typical tenants' rights campaign might involve requesting a rent reduction or paying rent late as a group before fully refusing to pay rent at all. Sudden mass layoffs due to the coronavirus pandemic might seem to be accelerating a nationwide interest in rent strikes, but the Philadelphia Tenants Union is cautious. “If you have no income to pay rent, then a ‘rent strike’ is an immediately attractive action. But that is not so much a rent strike as it is non-payment of rent,” the guide says. “A rent strike means building deep organizing roots among all tenants and collectively withholding rent even when people have the means to in order to meet a demand.”

Maddie Rose, an organizer with the Philadelphia Tenants Union, told BuzzFeed News that while interest in rent striking has spiked, many of the people she’s been in touch with are in “the early stages of talking to their fellow tenants through leaflets and phone calls,” and probably won’t be ready “to start making collective demands” until May 1. “[T]his happened so suddenly and it takes time to coordinate with other tenants, especially when your home is owned and controlled by a large developer,” Rose said.
posted by katra at 3:00 PM on April 3, 2020 [2 favorites]

The NYC Legal Aid Society offers COVID-19 Information for Clients that lists a variety of resources that may help support household income, including but not limited to:
Access to Benefits Helpline

The Access to Benefits (A2B) Helpline 888-663-6880 will be open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. A2B staff can assist NYC residents with employment and unemployment benefits matters, issues related to Medicaid/health law, SNAP, public assistance, disability, and other benefits and issues related to COVID-19.

Resources for NYCHA and Section 8 Residents

Residents experiencing loss of income are encouraged to request a rent reduction. Both NYCHA and Section 8 residents can do this online, through the NYCHA self-service portal or by calling the Customer Contact Center 718-707-7771. Keep a record of when the request was made and submit all supporting documentation within 45 days by mail or, by appointment, at your management office.

Medicaid and Health Insurance – Special Enrollment Period in NYS

Individuals who do not have health insurance can enroll in Medicaid and other subsidized and non-subsidized insurance on the New York State of Health Marketplace by calling 855-355-5777 or visiting New York State of Health. You can always enroll in Medicaid or the Essential Plan any time of year. Normally you can only enroll in private Qualified Health Plans on the Marketplace during open enrollment or in special circumstances, but there is currently a Special Enrollment Period for anyone to enroll until April 15.

Resources for Low Wage Workers

The New York City Low Wage Workers Task Force (LWWTF) has developed this resource sheet for workers in New York State which describes the various benefit programs available including rules for eligibility. Additional information is also available about public benefits.
According to the Met Council on Housing: If You Just Can’t Afford The Rent
To get referrals to charities across New York City that provide rental-assistance, call the Housing Court Answers rent assistance hotline at 212-962-4795. The charities that provide back-rent assistance ask that you contact the central number above for initial intake and referrals, and that you do not contact the charities directly.
posted by katra at 4:33 PM on April 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

Help Now NYC has published an Assistance for Individuals resource page:
Due to the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 on New York City's workforce, the City of New York has developed a list of resources for those who may be unemployed due to COVID-19 or are seeking additional assistance. The list below will be updated frequently.
via the NYC Mayor's Office to Protect Tenants Tenants' Rights for Tenants with COVID-19 or Under Home-Quarantine page

Also, the NYC Human Resources Administration offers an overview and links to a variety of public benefits and resources, including the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), which notes: "The Heating Assistance application period has been extended until April 20, 2020."
posted by katra at 5:41 PM on April 3, 2020

Check with the Center for Urban Pedagogy, it's a non profit that partners artists with community groups to make accessible detailed information available on all sorts of social justice issues - including housing rights.
posted by jrobin276 at 6:03 PM on April 3, 2020

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