There are many rules in New York that are meant to protect tenants' rights and protect them from abuse from landlords. However, many tenants do not know their rights or what landlords can and cannot do to tenants. Also, many are unaware of certain services that landlords are required to provide to tenants. Most importantly many tenants do not know what they can do when they receive an eviction notice or find themselves in a landlord-tenant dispute.
Housing court can be a very intimidating place for tenants especially since landlords have attorneys 90% of the time. Many tenants may have valid defenses, but may not know that they do or do not know how to properly assert them. This can lead to evictions that should have never occurred and leave the tenants in a very difficult position. Not only do they no longer have a place to live, but a previous eviction can make it more difficult to find another place to live.
To help combat this problem, New York recently became the first city in the U.S. to guarantee an attorney for low-income tenants. If the tenant makes below 200% of the poverty line, they would qualify for an appointed attorney. This will implemented over the next five years, so until it is fully implemented only certain areas will be able to receive a free attorney.
This should help protect tenants and even the playing field in housing court. Many people may now be able to avoid evictions or at least reduce the consequences by ensuring the eviction will not stay on their record.
There are many tenants in New York who face eviction every year. There are many others who may put up with landlords who do not do proper repairs and have other issues, but do not know what they can do about it. This new law will help many of these tenants, but it will not provide lawyers to everyone. However, it is still important for these people to know their rights. Experienced attorneys know tenants' rights and may be able to help one protect them.
Source: 6sqft.com, "NYC law guaranteeing a lawyer for any tenant facing eviction is the nation's first of its kind," Michelle Cohen, Aug. 24, 2017