Thursday, July 29, 2010

Two tenants, two plays

(1) One of our very own tenants, Marina Squerciati (fresh off two TV series) is in a play this August :

Just in Time: The Judy Holliday Story
has been reprised.  You can see the additional performances on Sept. 13 and 14 at 7 PM and Sept. 15 at 3 PM at the Lucille Lortel Theater, 121 Christopher Street (between Bleecker & Hudson).

This is a fast-paced romp through the life of the Original Dumb Blond and of one of the funniest actresses of all time.

Written and directed by Bob Sloan

Featuring Marina Squerciati, Mary Gutzi, Catherine LeFrere and Adam Harrington.

Sept 10 at 9:30
Sept. 13 at 7PM
Sept 14 at 7PM
Sept 15 at 3PM

Lucille Lortel Theater
121 Christopher Street (between Bleecker and Hudson)

For tickets go to 

(2)  Tenant Glenda Frank has written a new play,
The Fourth Estate

which will play as part of the 2010 NY International Fringe Festival.

Inspired by current events, "The Fourth Estate" takes you into the lives of four journalists confronting danger. In Afghanistan, a rookie reporter, teamed with a veteran photographer, struggles with romantic attraction and a need to make a difference. Two Asian American women face a death sentence for spying in North Korea. A corporate VP tries to bully an editor into whitewashing environmental pollution. An Irish journalist recognizes the imminent possibility of her murder. It has a very talented cast and an impressive young director.


TUES 8/17 @ 4:15-5:35 pm

WED 8/18 @ 7-8:20 pm

SAT  8/21 @ 3:15-4:35 pm

MON 8/23  @ 5:45- 7:05 pm

WED 8/25 @ 8:15- 9:35 pm

Where :


Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door, with discount available.

Contact, 1-866-468-7619 or in person at FringeCENTRAL.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tenant Blacklist - Check out the video


According to a very useful video put out by the New York State Bar Association for non-lawyers: When a landlord sues a tenant in housing court, regardless of who wins,  the tenant's name can appear in data that the Housing Court sells each day to private companies for "Tenant Screening Reports."  It is not illegal for the courts to sell this information to private companies: court records are public documents.  [See below for more specifics on how names end up in the data sold.] Those companies then sell the data to other landlords when the same tenant is trying to move into a new apartment. The data is supposed to be accurate, but often is not, and it does not state who won or lost the case. There are some 350,000 cases brought by landlords in housing court in New York City each year. About 5% of those are tenants suing their landlords for repairs (called "HP" actions - referring to "Housing Part"), and their names might NOT appear on these lists.

Tenant screening reports contain the names of tenants whose cases were placed on the court calendar - where the landlord brings the case and the tenant is the "respondent." There are 3 kinds of typical housing court  actions:

  • Nonpayment of rent
    • Where the tenant is short of money or  has forgotten to pay the rent
    • Where the tenant is withholding rent (as permitted under New York State law) because the landlord has failed to make needed repairs in violation of the Warranty of Habitability.
In Nonpayment cases, the tenant's name is not put on the calendar until the tenant files a formal Answer and the tenant gets a date for a hearing. So negotiation with the owner before those events is helpful.
  • "Holdovers"  - the owner wants the tenant out. 
    • The owner claims the tenant does not actually live in his/her rent stabilized apartment.
    • The owner claims the person has no right to "succeed to" (take over the lease of) the apartment when the former primary tenant has left the apartment or died.
In Holdover cases, the tenant's name goes on the calendar as soon as the landlord files the case.

  • "Housing Part" or "HP" actions - the tenant sues the landlord for repairs. In this situation, the tenant is the person bringing the action, or the "petitioner," and the owner is the "respondent."
So in HP cases, the tenant's name may not end up on a tenant screening report.

Tenants who find themselves facing a landlord court action should try to include specific language in agreements between the parties that are filed with the court "to minimize or undo some harm, but this can be a difficult process, and is close to impossible for tenants without attorneys," writes Brendan Enright, Information and Advocacy Coordinator of Housing Court Answers, a service of the the City Wide Task Force on Housing Court. They have a website section on this issue at

Try to avoid the 2 long-term effects of a judgment against a tenant in housing court - or even of being sued in housing court at all:

(1) Damage to Credit reports. The three major companies (Experion, Equifax and TransUnion) that issue credit reports will show judgments against tenants, and the resulting damage to the tenant's credit rating can lead to higher rates on insurance and car payments, for example. To minimize this damage, tenants should try to get language that says the the judgment will be vacated upon proof of payment. That language will not help with tenant screening reports, however. So read on.

(2) Tenant screening reports (about 600 or more companies are involved nationally) will show that the tenant's name appeared in the court calendar as a "respondent." To get this removed, Brendan Enright suggests, "they can try to include language such as Petition consents to the expungement of any record of this proceeding from the database of any Tenant screening bureau or credit reporting agency. If the landlord consent, the tenant can send a letter requesting expungement (erasure) to the company along with a copy of the stipulation [agreement between the parties that is filed with the court]." He warns that "without that specific language, a tenant may not have grounds to base an appeal to the company."

As the video notes, the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires companies to remove inaccurate information when they are notified by the consumer. Mr. Enright notes, "Unfortunately, since the tenant screening report is solely a record that they have been taken ot court and they did appear and have a court date, the information listed on the tenant screening portion is not 'erroneous or incorrect,' and therefore outside the (small) enforcement realm of the FCRA. . . . With the Tenant Fair Chance Act, landlords must let prospective tenants know the names and addresses of any screening companies they use. That way, prospective tenants can possibly correct the record.

The video is well worth the half hour or so that it takes, and the speaking pace is slow enough that you can probably take most of it down as you listen and watch.

Consult a lawyer if you have questions!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Write to Senator Bill Perkins: We need a hero!

The State Senate temporarily adjourned on July 1st without passing any of the tenant bills members had promised to tenants.  Senators will be going back to Albany to pass the state budget (originally due April 1st!).  Insist that they stay up there until the tenant bills get passed!  Below is a sample letter you can adapt and sent to Senator Bill Perkins .

 July 2010

Senator Bill Perkins
Suite 932, State Office Building
163 W. 125th St.
New York, NY  10029

                                    Re: Tenant Bills Pending in Senate

Dear Senator Perkins:

You have been a friend to tenants like me, living in a former Mitchell-Lama and fighting "unique or peculiar circumstances" increases.   But right now tenants need more than a friend.  We need you to be a hero.

For decades tenants in this neighborhood have been promised that the Senate Democrats would reform and strengthen our rent laws once you took the majority.  Bu tat the end of the second legislative season with Democrats in charge, my neighbors and I are frustrated and disillusioned.

Now we need you to stand up for us - now more than ever: Do not come home without passing our package of rent reform legislation

Of course it is hard to pass controversial bills in the current Senate.  And I know that a couple of members of the Democratic conference are closely aligned with landlord lobbyists and are working to ensure that pro-tenant bills don’t reach the Senate floor. 

It's time for Senators on our side to stand up.  I urge that you call Senate Conference Leader John Sampson and tell him that you will not be present for a vote on the budget until after the Senate has passed our priority legislation.

Sincerely ,
 [your name and address]

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

HEAT WAVE! Help your neighbors

Please look in on the elderly or ailing on your floor during the heat wave.

  • Bring up food or medicine they need (so they don't have to go outside).
  • Help them to the air-conditioned lobby with a chair.
  • Remind them to drink plenty of water.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Call Sen. Bill Perkins to Strongly Support our Bills

There is a chance that some tenant bills will be passed in the next few days, but some of our State Senators are wavering. Give Senator Bill Perkins strength by calling to urge that he support the tenant bills STRONGLY.

CALL AND EMAIL every day until the legislative session ends (could be today, tomorrow, or next week).  His telephone numbers are 212-222-7315 in NYC and 518-455-2441 in Albany.

WHAT TO SAY: Tell Sen. Perkins these bills are important! Tenants need 
  • S6881 to extend rent laws extended now (otherwise they expire in 2011), and 
  • S3326D (the Stewart-Cousins bill) to save Mitchell-Lama, and keep our homes affordable with no "unique or peculiar circumstances" increases.  
Sen. Perkins has sponsored both these bills, but needs to push back against the Real Estate lobby. They are out in force - and we have to show him that votes are more important that Real Estate money.