Predatory and negligent landlords prey on tenants and take advantage of them. Knowing this, one nonprofit protects people and has expanded its reach during the pandemic.
JustFix.nyc, which started in 2015, recently expanded its reach during the COVID-19 pandemic and is launched a free new online tool, Emergency HP Action Tool, that lets tenants virtually sue errant landlords without having to physically appear in court.
The technology is an “interactive website” not an “app” or a “mobile app”.It is, however, good to note that it is optimized to be available on any type of internet-connected device: phone, tablet, desktop/laptop computer.
Currently, one in five families in the city are living in a home with one or more property maintenance violations. More than 135,000 properties in New York City have reported violations. These include hazardous conditions such as lead paint, water leaks, black mold, lack of heat or hot water and pest infestations, all of which puts people’s health at risk.
“Health threats that already existed are now compounded when people are trapped in their homes,” said Georges Clement, co-founder and acting executive director of JustFix.nyc. “This virtual tool is a way to make sure renters get the services they need and deserve.”
The Emergency HP Action Tool builds on the work that JustFix.nyc has been doing in New York City to help thousands of tenants report maintenance issues in their apartments and exercise their legal rights. JustFix.nyc also connects tenants with legal services if facing an eviction, helps them solve maintenance issues outside of court and created a database for people to research their property owners and see their eviction history.
One person who knows about this firsthand is Gizelle Custodio of Soundview. Custodio, 32, has had issues with her landlord for two years, including no heat, hot water, gas, mold and leaks. Also, she is disabled, has five kids and her 9-year-old daughter has asthma. She has been without gas since April and had a hearing Monday and another scheduled for Friday.
A couple months ago she was on social media and saw an ad for JustFix.nyc and contacted them. According to Custodio, the organization and specifically Johanna Bassetti-Santos, the director of product at JustFix.nyc, have been a lifesaver for her.
“Johanna was very helpful and persistent,” Custodio said. “Johanna did most of the work. You’re a blessing right now.”
Bassetti noted that since the launch of the virtual app, registration increased drastically. She explained the hope is the courts agree to continue to this even when courts reopen. For many seniors and disabled people, it’s a challenge to get to court and this makes it easier.
Tenants must go through the following steps when utilizing the online tool:
- Tenant goes to www.justfix.nyc/ehp to start their case for emergency repairs and/or to stop harassment.
- They answer around 10 simple questions about their situation (the exact number depends on the type of case.)
- They e-sign their paperwork online.
- The system sends the paperwork to their borough’s housing court.
- They get assigned a lawyer.
- The virtual hearing takes place over Skype.
Here is a video of how the tool works: Video Walkthrough // Emergency HP Action | JustFix.nyc Tool.