Catholic Migration Services filed two cases in Queens County Supreme Court on behalf of tenants who allege that their landlord charged them more than the legally permissible rent for many years. Along with pro bono counsel from Simpson, Thacher and Bartlett LLP, we recently obtained a favorable ruling from an appellate court that will permit our clients’ claims to proceed.
In 2015, Beatriz came to Catholic Migration Services seeking one-on-one consultation because she believed that her rent was too high. After learning about her housing concerns, the Catholic Migration Services Tenant Advocacy Program agreed to represent her and her son with the expertise of Senior Staff Attorney, Mariam Magar.
In the course of researching the records for the apartment maintained by the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), Mariam discovered that a rent reduction order was issued by DHCR in 1987 (and effective May 1986) had remained in effect through September 2015. This meant that Beatriz and Angel should have been paying only $348.04 per month, an overcharge of almost $1,300 per month, until then.
In February 2016 Mariam filed overcharge cases for both Beatriz and Angel in Queens County Supreme Court, asserting that they were overcharged because (1) the rent in their 2006 vacancy lease, which was more than double the rent paid by the prior tenant, was excessive, and (2) the 1987 DHCR rent reduction order limited their rent to $348.04 per month through September 2015. After filing the cases, Mariam learned about a second rent reduction order that was still in effect.
Initially, the judges in each of the two cases dismissed them, finding that the tenants had filed them too late, but with the help of pro bono counsel from the law firm of Simpson, Thacher and Bartlett LLP, we appealed to the Appellate Division, Second Department, and in June 2020, the Court issued orders reversing the two Supreme Court decisions, holding that the tenants had not filed their cases too late.
As of July 2020, the two cases are now headed back to the Supreme Court, where the tenants may once again pursue their overcharge claims with continued representation from Catholic Migration Services and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Beatriz and her son Angel, this will enable mother and son to remain in their long-time home for years to come.
Last week Catholic Migration Services and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest hosted a Virtual Immigration Town Hall via Facebook Live. Panelists discussed how COVID-19 is impacting tenants and workers, shared helpful resources with the immigrant community during this difficult time, and took questions from the audience. If you missed it, view the video below.
*The Virtual Immigration Town Hall begins at 00:09:00
Join Catholic Migration Services and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest for an Virtual Immigration Town Hall on…
Posted by Catholic Migration Services on Thursday, May 7, 2020
As hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers lose their jobs or part of their income due to the pandemic, Catholic Migration Services is assisting tenants who are thinking of going on a “rent strike” – refusing to pay rent. As of May 1st, more than 50 buildings with 1,000 tenants are on rent strike — the largest rent strike in nearly 100 years. These tenants are asking the government of New York State to cancel rent for those who cannot pay, cancel mortgages for small landlords, and cancel utility payments, in order to prevent mass displacement and evictions once New York’s eviction moratorium is lifted. In some cases, tenants may also be demanding that their landlords make urgently needed repairs and maintain their buildings adequately to prevent the spread of the virus.
In a recent article in the Wired, Agustin Pérez, a tenant leader working with Catholic Migration Services shares his experience after recently losing his job due to the COVID-19 pandemic and with two young children and a wife on maternity leave, he is doing everything he can to keep his family healthy and safe.
To learn more about the history and purpose of rent strikes, and what you can do as a tenant, visit www.rightotcounselnyc.org
and see images from the @RTCNYC @HOUSINGFORALLNY
*Catholic Migration Services advises any tenant considering a rent strike to try to speak with an attorney before striking. If you would like help organizing a rent strike in your building, contact Amy Collado at (347) 472-3500, extension 1021. You may obtain free legal advice about going on rent strike by calling Andrew Lehrer at (347) 472-3500, extension 1026.
Presione aquí para la versión en Español
Catholic Migration Services is continuing to assist existing and new clients during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak. However, we have limited our office operations to reduce health risks to visitors, staff and volunteers. For the health and safety of all, please do not come to our offices unless instructed to do so by a staff member of Catholic Migration Services.
For Individuals with Scheduled Appointments
If you already have an appointment scheduled to meet with someone at Catholic Migration Services, a staff member from our office will contact you to discuss holding the appointment by phone or rescheduling for a later date.
For Individuals Seeking Legal Assistance for the First Time
If you do not have an appointment scheduled and are seeking assistance, please see below for information about how to obtain immigration, housing or employment legal services.
If you are not a client and are calling for immigration help, please call (718) 236-3000 in Brooklyn or (347) 472-3500 in Queens and leave a message. We will return your message and schedule a time for you to speak by phone with one of our attorneys or immigration counselors.
Please be advised that Housing Court has been closed since Tuesday, March 17th until further notice, except for emergencies such as illegal lockouts and emergency repairs. Please know that all evictions will be put on hold until further notice. If you are a Queens resident and have questions about evictions, rent or repair issues, please call (347) 472-3500 (Catholic Migration Services) or 311 (New York City help line).
For additional housing assistance, please contact:
Andrew Lehrer, Esq. – ext. 1026
Amy Collado, Tenant Organizer – ext. 1021
Ahren Lahvis, Paralegal – ext. 1027
The Coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on workers. While our offices remain physically closed, Catholic Migration Services continues to provide critical legal services to low-wage and immigrant workers. In addition to providing advice and legal representation on general employment matters, such as wage theft, we are now also providing advice to workers directly impacted by this pandemic, including those with workplace health and safety concerns and those who have recently lost their jobs. Our hotline is open! To speak with an attorney, please call (877) 52-LABOR (52267) Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ¡Hablamos Español!
The safety of our community is our priority at all times. As a result, Catholic Migration Services has suspended all events and outreach activities including our monthly community meetings at St. Sebastian Parish in Woodside. We encourage vulnerable individuals to exercise caution and stay safe. Thank you for your patience and understanding during this health emergency.
For additional updates, please regularly visit the organization website and social media channels:
Download this update as a PDF.
On Monday, March 16th at 5:00 p.m., an eviction moratorium went into effect for New York tenants (both residential and commercial) after advocates with the Right to Counsel New York City Coalition and Housing Justice for All petitioned local leaders to call for a moratorium during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis. As a result, Housing Court will be closed as of Tuesday, March 17th until further notice, except for emergencies such as illegal lockouts and emergency repairs.
Read the full story in Curbed NY: New York halts evictions indefinitely due to corona pandemic
Last month, the New York State Legislature passed a historic package of rent regulations called The Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 that will strengthen and restore a series of important rent laws that were weakened over the course of 20 years. The Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 (“the Act”), signed into law days after lawmakers reached a deal, will preserve the affordability of about one million regulated apartments in New York City.
For Catholic Migration Services and its allies, this is a win that was years in the making. The Act addresses an affordable housing crisis caused in part by rollbacks of tenant protections, and by certain landlords who exploited loopholes and weak laws to put profit before tenants.
Catholic Migration Services, joined by coalition partners and tenants alike, advocated for years on behalf of New Yorkers to restore equity amid this statewide housing crisis. Carlos Ortiz, Tenant Organizer with the Tenant Advocacy Program picked up as lead organizer at Catholic Migration Services for this initiative shortly after the 2016 laws expired. It was during that time that he and other organizers at Catholic Migration Services began to get into campaign mode to mobilize tenants in need of housing reform. After a statewide coalition was formed joining advocates throughout New York State, they began to strategize and mobilize.
According to Ortiz, “Queens experienced one of the greatest mobilizations in the effort, and Catholic Migration Services was a big part of that. We consistently brought people from the borough, and dedicated tenant leaders who were part of the planning and strategy meetings sacrificed their time, and that of their families.”
New York tenants were kept abreast about these efforts through coordinated forums, community meetings, public platforms, rallies, and press conferences organized by partner organizations and coalition members. The rollback and new set of laws makes it much easier for tenants and their advocates, removing obstacles, and closing some loopholes that oftentimes threatened the homes and stability of New Yorkers. For Ortiz and other advocates, the historic legislation is a great step in the right direction but there is still work to be done, especially the elimination of the existing Major Capital Improvement (MCI) provisions that contain a loophole through which certain landlords can continue to increase rents dramatically and unfairly.
Catholic Migration Services is a unique legal service provider in the community. In addition to providing high quality legal assistance and Know Your Rights education to low-income individuals, Catholic Migration Services assists immigrants with immigration legal services, tenants in Queens with housing legal services, and low-wage workers with employment legal services. The staff includes attorneys and organizers. “We help solve problems from a legal position and in other good ways that are needed,” said Andrew Lehrer, Managing Attorney for the Tenant Advocacy Program. “There is value in having organizers and involving the client community. “It’s remarkable what tenants were able to achieve by coming together to advocate for these reforms,” said Lehrer.
Read the full press release from Assemblymember’s Office here: Assembly Passes Historic Affordable Housing Protections to Bring Stability to Tenants Across New York State