Finding a place to rent in New York is difficult, but some people have had a harder time than others. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but one of the things people most often blame is tenant blacklisting. Some people think landlords also have a list of people not to rent apartments, but how legit is that claim? Is there a blacklist of tenants? If so, how do you find it? How can you get out of it? We have all of these answers, and more, below.
What is the tenant blacklist?
First and foremost, the renter blacklist is real…sort of. You see, the government keeps records of everyone with a history of overdue payments and those who have already been to housing court. This data is purchased from the government by different tenant screening companies, which can then be used by landlords when conducting background checks on potential tenants. Although a blacklist does not explicitly exist, tenants with a Housing Court history will likely have negative search results when searched, which could make their applications appear to be rejected more often.
Can your application be rejected because of your criminal record in housing?
The short answer to this question is “no”. However, it can get a bit more complicated than that. In 2019, NYC prohibited landlords from denying applications because of a complicated Housing Court history or a poor relationship with a previous landlord. Landlords who reject applications for this reason can be fined up to $1,000 if caught.
The problem is that it’s hard to catch them doing this stuff. Landlords can simply state another reason for rejecting a tenant and the Housing Court information is public. Even if a landlord gets caught rejecting applicants for going to housing tribunal, they can just decide to pay the fine and keep doing it, knowing they can get that money back once they has found a tenant he likes. So what can be done?
Remove your name from a housing tribunal search
There are several ways to remove your name from Housing Court searches. For example, if you and your landlord get along well, part of the housing court settlement may be an endorsement of the tenant rather than a permanent stain on their record. This situation won’t work for everyone, because taking a landlord to housing court usually means something has gone seriously wrong. However, it never hurts to offer it as an option.
Also, if a legal battle looms, have your attorney contact your landlord’s attorney and ask them to register you under John or Jane Doe. This is completely legal and will keep you anonymous in court records regarding your case. This might make finding your case difficult later, but finding a home will be worth it.
Unfortunately, if you’ve already gone through housing court with your full name, you’ll just have to wait. There is an expiration date for your name to appear on Housing Court searches. The Fair Credit Reporting Act, for example, erases Housing Court data after seven years. Many searches of housing courts in New York do not include data that is more than five years old. It’s a long wait, but it will fade eventually.
Avoid housing court altogether
Although this solution may seem illusory, there is a way to solve a building problem with a difficult landlord without going to housing court. The procedure is called a Action of housing piece, or “HP”. All a tenant has to do is fill out a form saying there is a building violation. The city will then send an inspector. If the inspector finds a violation, the owner is legally bound to fix the problem or risk heavy fines. Names are kept anonymous, so landlords cannot retaliate against tenants, and names are not entered into the housing court database.
Unfortunately, disputes between tenants and landlords are sometimes much more personal. For example, you might not be able to pay the rent due to circumstances beyond your control, your landlord might want you to move out for various reasons, or the two of you might not get along. Before going to the Housing Court, find out this list of options regarding alternatives to Housing Court and what to do if Housing Court is your only avenue.
How do I find accommodation if my name is on a Housing Tribunal search?
There are several ways to find an apartment if your name comes up on a housing court search. One of the easiest solutions is to keep applying for apartments. Again, landlords aren’t allowed to dismiss you for a housing court violation, so finding an apartment to rent could be as simple as finding a landlord who doesn’t care about your rental history.
Having a bad relationship with one landlord doesn’t mean you’ve had a bad relationship with all landlords. If you have a solid rental history, find a landlord you get on well with and ask them to write you a recommendation. This will greatly contribute to your credibility, especially if you receive recommendations from several other owners. Many building owners just don’t get along with tenants, so it’s important to prove that you’re still a good person to rent to.
A good way to not talk to a landlord at all is to find a place to sublet. Subletting is ideal for people with a housing history because the leaseholder deals with the landlord, not you. The landlord must agree to the sublet, but the tenant is usually the one who makes a deal and does a background check. Leaseholders should be more forgiving than landlords since they are also tenants and are likely familiar with the difficulties of finding housing in New York.
Along the same lines, living with roommates is a great way to avoid a landlord background check. Your roommates might lean on you, but they too will likely be more invested in finding someone to pay the rent than finding someone who has never been to housing court. The best part about being a roommate is that you won’t even have to be on the lease. You never have to interact with the building owner unless you want to, and you can use your new arrangement to wait for your housing court data to expire.
Know your rights
Many laws changed in 2019 to protect tenants from sleazy landlords, but the city hasn’t been proactive when it comes to spreading this good news. Essentially, if you know your name will show up in a housing search, it’s good to be upfront with that information and explain the situation to your future landlord. If they reject your application, ask them why they rejected you. This might be your only chance to build a case against them.
Remember that landlords cannot discriminate against you because of your housing criminal record or if you have been evicted. It is also illegal for them to make a list of people they refuse to rent to. Use this information to your advantage when looking for a home. You have tools that will work in your favor and it’s a good idea to use them.
Officially, there is no tenant blacklist in New York. However, the Housing Court and other public data can essentially be turned into one and can be used for illegal discharges that are difficult for potential tenants to fight. There is still hope for you to find a home if your name is on this list, but you will want to do your best to try to avoid it. We understand that sometimes Housing Court is the only option for a tenant. Just be aware that if you have no choice but to go to court, you have rights and other remedies to find housing.