Rent board member goes after Section 8 tenants

Landlord rep Christina Smyth filed 4 questionable cases in recent years: lawsuit

NYC Rent Guidelines Board Rep Takes On Section 8 Tenants
Attorney and Rent Guidelines Board member Christina Smyth (LinkedIn, Getty)

Last month, Christina Smyth, a landlord representative on the Rent Guidelines Board, asked that a board meeting be held virtually so she wouldn’t be intimidated by tenant supporters.

It turns out that Smyth does some intimidating of her own, by sometimes pursuing undeserved debt-collection cases against Section 8 tenants, as Curbed reported.

Smyth represents landlords not only on the board but in private practice as well, where she occasionally goes after tenants for being short on rent when they have paid their share in full, according to a May lawsuit by Legal Services NYC.

However, the suit only identified four such cases in the past few years out of the many hundreds Smith has brought in that period. Last year alone she filed 200 cases seeking rent. Legal Services “believes there are likely more,” Curbed wrote.

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The story highlighted a case in which the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development cut off a rent-stabilized tenant’s Section 8 subsidy because of a failed annual inspection. Court documents cited open violations, such as a broken lock and smoke detector, that were the landlord’s responsibility to fix.

The tenant, a mother of five who had been in the Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment since 2004, had consistently paid her portion of the rent. But the loss of the voucher prompted the landlord, Jay Zed LLC, to demand she make up the difference, which Legal Services claims is a common tactic.

Jay Zed then turned to Smyth to take the case to housing court. Smyth unknowingly filed a rental ledger that showed the tenant had actually been overcharged since the summer of 2021. A judge dismissed the case and ruled the landlord owed the tenant $3,055.

Smyth did not return an email and LinkedIn message seeking a response to the story. HPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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