By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Brooklyn Bar Association’s (BBA) Foundation Law Committee hosted a free and public event on Monday titled “Landlord Tenant Law: Know Your Rights,” where attorneys gave a presentation on landlord and tenant proceedings at the Brooklyn Bar Association headquarters.
The event was co-sponsored by the Volunteer Lawyers Project and the BBA’s Lawyer Referral Service. It was moderated by Fern J. Finkel, the chair of the Foundation Law Committee; and featured Jimmy Lathrop, a prominent landlord tenant attorney in Brooklyn; and Raniece Medley, of the Source of Income Discrimination Unit.
“This is an event that the Foundation Law Committee hosts as a way to give back to the community,” Finkel said. “It’s just for goodwill, a way to inform people of their rights, and it is exciting to see that we have such a good turnout.”
The newly formed Source of Income Discrimination Unit is part of the NYC Department of Social Services. The unit is designed to assist people who are receiving rental subsidies from being discriminated against.
“Those subsidies (such as Section 8), as well as other government sources of income and assistance, are considered lawful source of income,” Medley said. “They are to be considered the same as cash or any other income a person would report. Unfortunately, many times that’s not how that income is being regarded when people use vouchers to receive housing.”
Medley explained that her unit merely has to inform landlords or management companies of when they are violating the law to get people to comply, but the unit can force a civil action against a landlord. The unit also protects people who aren’t just looking for apartments, but tenants who already have housing and are being treated differently.
From there Lathrop went into what the housing court, located at 141 Livingston St., is, what landlords and tenants should expect when they bring certain actions and the differences between nonpayment, holdover and Housing and Preservation Proceedings are.
“There is a lot to be lost by both parties for bringing cases to landlord tenant court,” Lathrop said. “As a person who makes a lot of money off of these cases and I’m telling you that if you can avoid these cases you should. For landlords, L&T [Landlord and Tenant] cases can be very expensive.
“For a tenant, the ramifications are more severe and it’s very understated because you could end up on what is pejoratively referred to as the blacklist, a report with the name of everyone who has responded to a nonpayment or holdover case in the state of New York,” he continued.
Lathrop covered the differences between unregulated and rent-regulated apartments and took questions from the audience. He wouldn’t answer specific questions that people had, but would explain the law and offered anecdotes to try and help.
One person explained that they were considering buying a four-family brownstone, but that they were concerned about how to deal with tenants. Lathrop laid out the law and then explained that is often takes a lot of patience and resources when dealing with tenants.
“You are in a situation where you are very vulnerable because you have this very expensive asset and you are letting strangers inside who could light candles, murder people or cook terrible food,” Lathrop said. “And you can’t fold it up, put it in your pocket and take it away.
When there is a boiler problem, you have to fix it or you’ll get fined. There is a plumbing problem, but you’re on vacation.”
The Foundation Law Committee generally hosts four similar events per year that are open to the public and aimed at teaching people the law. The last three topics included elder law care, bankruptcy and divorce. The elder law course is held annually and the other topics rotate.