En Español Know Your Rights
Source: City Limits
Subject: Brooklyn
Type: Media Coverage

Opinion: The Rent Regs Debate is About Giving Tenants the Tool to Fight

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My family and I are fighting to be able to stay in our apartment building, while our ruthless landlord is trying to put us on the street.

For the last 16 years, I have lived in the same Brooklyn apartment. I live with my wife, twin daughters and 20-month old baby girl. My daughters have lived here all their lives; it is the only home they know. In the last five years, my family and I have dealt with dangerous and unhealthy conditions in our apartment, while the landlord has repeatedly neglected to repair them. The floor tiles are detached. The walls are cracked and moldy. The windows have holes in them where mice can get through. The kitchen cabinets are old and loose. The sink constantly leaks, and the hot water faucet is broken. Once, the refrigerator did not work, and we had to replace it on our own to be able to have food our own home.

The list of unsafe and unhealthy conditions goes on and on. And ever since my family started to demand repairs to be done, not only has the landlord disregarded our concerns, but now he has started a court case to try to evict my family.

In New York, more than five million tenants like me do not have any protections. That’s why I went to Albany with Make the Road New York and tenants with the Housing Justice for All coalition from all over the state. Vulnerable and unprotected families like mine have to constantly fight for safe and livable conditions. We have to fight to be able to stay in our homes and not be thrown out onto the streets. Enough is enough.

Our state legislature must not only renew existing protections for rent-stabilized tenants, which are set to expire within the next month, but must also strengthen and expand protections for all tenants across the state. My family is stuck in a nightmare because no laws in New York protect tenants in unregulated units. We must pass the “Good Cause” eviction bill, which would expand renters’ rights to tenants in buildings like mine by preventing us from being evicted without good cause, such as a repeated failure to pay rent. It will protect families whose landlords fail to repair apartments in hopes that tenants will get tired of the deteriorating conditions and move out, all so that the landlord can just increase the rent for the next tenant.

Since February, I have been going to housing court to defend my case. With good cause legislation enacted, tenants like me would have the upper hand in court when faced with landlords trying to displace us for no good reason. In the meantime, I have lost money from missing work and sleep from the stress of fearing that my time in my home is limited. With my current income and three children, I cannot afford to move out because rent prices all over the state are rising at alarming rates.

I fear that I will lose my home, forcing my family to become homeless. And I know I’m not alone. Renters like me need our legislators to take action to prevent this from happening. The state legislature has the power to make sure families across the state enjoy basic protections and significantly reduce the risk of displacement. Our families’ futures hang in the balance.

Jorge Rufino is a member of Make the Road New York, the largest grassroots community organization in New York offering services and organizing the immigrant community. On Twitter: @MaketheRoadNY