The Real Deal New York

Tenants get short-changed in Bronx rental disputes, new report says

Borough handles 85,000 housing court cases annually, more than any other borough
March 15, 2013 09:00AM

The Bronx has so many housing disputes that tenants don’t have any real means to legal recourse and are getting evicted at dizzying speeds, according to a new report by tenant advocates seen by the New York Times. 

More than 85,000 complaints a year flood Bronx Housing Court, more than in any other borough. The burden leads to judges neglecting tenants and resources being spread too thin, according to the report, issued by the New Settlement Apartments’ Community Action for Safe Apartments and the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center.

“Bronx Housing Court does not currently operate as a place where tenants can access justice, but rather as a place where tenants are brought to court and evicted at a disturbing and unprecedented rate,” the report stated.

Last year, the court evicted 10,966 families, compared with 8,514 in Brooklyn, 4,606 in Queens, 3,776 in Manhattan, and 894 on Staten Island, according to city marshals. The total citywide rose 4 percent to 28,756.

Judge Fern Fisher, deputy chief administrative judge for the city’s courts, told the Times that although judges in the Bronx did see far more cases than their counterparts in other boroughs, a shortage of space in the Bronx courthouse means that she cannot send more judges there to lighten the load.

“The challenges of the Bronx make it difficult for both sides,” Fisher said, adding that landlords were upset about how long it takes to resolve a complaint.

The report found that the majority of tenants did not have a lawyer and were naïve about the way the courtroom works. Many tenants, for example, had signed agreements with landlords’ lawyers before their day in court.

“You have rights, but no one tells you,” Carmen Vega-Rivera, 59, who has been fighting eviction proceedings, told the Times. [NYT]  –Hiten Samtani