Fernando Cabrera Fights For Tenants

Tenants throughout the borough may soon have a way to determine their rights simply by looking at a posting within their building.

For many multiple-dwellings in the Bronx, tenants are unaware of what rights belong to them, which ultimately can turn to ignored or outdated building repairs or other issues that are not properly handled by landlords.

On Wednesday, February 16 at the Stated New York City Council Meeting at City Hall, Councilman Fernando Cabrera introduced a proposed Tenant’s Bill of Rights that would require landlords of multiple unit buildings to post the sign in a highly visable location in the building, as well as attaching it to tenant’s leases and lease renewals.

According to Cabrera, it is not fair for tenants to live through certain conditions that should be handled promptly by landlords, and this bill would allow tenants to better understand the rights that they already have through city law, but are not properly educated on.

“The Tenants Bill of Rights are for the people who don’t know what their rights are and who need direction on where to go to get help,” Cabrera said. “I have personally visited buildings where families are living without toilets or heat and have mold on their walls. Tenants rights need to discussed and shared on a larger scale.”

The proposed bill, which will apply to buildings with three or more apartments, will include major tenants rights such as those pertaining to heat and hot water, discrimination, roommates, habitability, quiet enjoyment, subletting, seniors and disabled, tenant organizations and eviction.

Since the bill will only list a total of 11 rights, tenants will also be notified of the appropriate agencies that could provide a longer listing of their rights and also if they feel as if their rights have been violated.

Barry Soltz, legal coordinator of the Janel Towers Tenants Association in Janel Towers in Morris Park, believes this will be an important victory for Bronx tenants should the bill be approved.

“Many tenants are unaware of their rights and although some of it has to do with a lack of legal knowledge, a lot of it comes from landlords not providing it to them,” Soltz said. “This new bill could certainly help out tenants a lot in terms of what they are supposed to know and how they can handle it properly.”

According to Sally Dunford of the West Bronx Housing and Neighborhood Resource Center, who provides technical assistance to tenants and landlords in districts five and seven, the approval of Tenants Bill of Rights will be a big help for tenants as well as landlords.

“The biggest problem for tenants is that they often don’t understand all of the legal information that comes with their rights,” Dunford said. “This bill will help tenants better understand what is entitled to them but will also help landlords who aren’t too familiar with certain issues.”

Councilman Cabrera does not think it will be difficult for the bill to be passed since it is only a listing of rights and laws that already exist for tenants, but will have to wait for the New York City Council’s Housing and Building Committee to review it in the upcoming months.

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