Your Right to Join a Tenant Association and Other Related Rights
Authored By: Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A
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Do tenants have the legal right to organize themselves into tenant groups and associations?
Yes. The right of tenants to organize into associations is specifically protected by the laws of New York State, as well as the Constitution of the United States.
Can the tenant association meet in our building?
Yes. The association has the right to meet in common areas of your building like the lobby.
What if the organizers of my tenants' association don't live in my building? Do they have the right to enter my building for meetings?
Yes. The right to organize, like the right of access for labor union organizers, should allow tenant association organizers to enter the building for tenant association meetings.
Can my landlord interfere with the tenants' association?
No. Your landlord may not interfere with your association. In addition, your landlord cannot discriminate against or punish anyone for organizing or joining a tenant association.
Can our association talk to the people in our building and advertise in the building to gain new members?
Yes. The association may ask around for new members. Additionally, posters and other types of advertisements may be displayed in your windows and on your doors in the common halls of the building. However, the law is less clear about whether you can put posters on the outside of the building.
Can the members of the association go on a rent strike or withhold their rent as a group?
Yes, you may exercise your right to withhold rent as a group. In addition, you don't need to ask a court for permission to do this; once the association decides to withhold rent, it may do so. However, your landlord has a right to sue you for nonpayment of rent. If the court decides that you need to pay, your landlord can evict you if you do not have the rent money available.
Should I put my money in a tenant association account?
A tenant association account that is set up the right way helps ensure that everyone has the money set aside. This is important not only so that each tenant is safe, but also so that no tenant is weakening the bargaining position of others in the group. Before making a final decision on whether or not to open a tenant association account, you should consult with an attorney or experienced tenant organizer.
Why else would I want to organize a tenant association?
Tenant associations can help you to:
- Fight a landlord's attempt to get a building vacated
- Prove that your apartment is rent regulated
- File an HP proceeding, as a group, for an order to repair
- Seek appointment of a "7A" administrator to run the building
- Make repairs in common areas of the building and deduct the cost of the repairs
- Obtain repairs from the Housing Preservation and Development's Emergency Repair Program
- Work together on DHCR complaints for the whole building
- Pursue informal advocacy including "lawyer letters"
- Investigate purchasing the building as a group
Brooklyn Legal Services Corp. A, Williamsburg Office