Legal Aid Society and Flatbush Tenant Coalition Criticize Arbitrary House Rules Intended to Intimidate Tenants, Reported by Gothamist

Posted on March 5, 2019

Brooklyn Landlord Threatens To Evict Tenants Who Violate His Ten Etiquette Commandments

Originally Published in Gothamist on March 5, 2019
Written by Elizabeth Kim

In gentrifying neighborhoods, the pressures of eviction are all too real, supported by stories about New York City landlords who push out rent-stabilized tenants by creating truly horrifying living conditions, such as lack of heat and hot water, mold, and vermin. But tenant intimidation can come in quieter forms. At 415 East 16th Street, a rent-stabilized apartment building in Ditmas Park, the building’s landlord recently installed a large sign in the lobby with a list of 10 etiquette rules, where offenses are punishable by eviction.

While “house rules” may be common, this list takes things a step further, starting with the first rule: “Speak softly and keep off your mobile devices.” At the bottom of the list is a “three-strikes you’re out” policy. Three-time offenders, it states, will draw a $100 fine and an “initiation of eviction proceeding.” “Landlords are constantly coming up with new ways to harass tenants, especially long-term tenants,” said Aga Trojniak, the director of the Flatbush Tenant Coalition. She said such rules can be used during holdover eviction cases, in which landlords try to force out tenants for reasons other than nonpayment of rent, such as behavior. Trojniak also pointed out that terms of tenancy for rent-stabilized tenants would be outlined in the initial lease, including what kind of fees tenants can be charged. “The idea that you can just come up with fines is just a brazen attempt to harass people,” she said.

Judith Goldiner, attorney-in-charge of the Legal Aid Society’s Civil Law Reform Unit, issued a statement in response to the sign: “Unscrupulous landlords employ a range of arbitrary and punitive rules to nickel-and-dime low-income residents. It’s blatant harassment, and tenants should contact us if they believe that their rights are being infringed upon.” The building is largely home to Hispanic families, many of whom have lived in the building for decades. The sign that appeared last week is only in English. A resident, asking to remain anonymous, said she saw no justification for imposing such a crackdown. “Everyone is very respectful in this building, everyone keeps to themselves,” the tipster said. “It’s just really upsetting that they are doing this.”

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