News & Resources

Tenant lawsuit may have far-reaching implications

Nov 10, 2011 Matt Roesly

The New York State Office of Court Administration sells the names of every tenant sued for eviction in housing court to private companies, The New York Times explains. These companies then create a master list of "problem tenants" and sell it to landlords who need a tenant background screening. The lists can sell for as much as $20,000. Upper East Side resident James Whelan is hoping to avoid becoming a name on that list, and recently filed a pre-emptive suit against his landlord, a limited liability company that has been attempting to evict him so a relative of one of the principals can move in. Whelan has been a tenant in the building for 17 years. "They'll put me on a blacklist," Whelan told the media outlet. "If you're renting an apartment, they check that out. And if you've been to housing court, you're not going to get the apartment." The main issue is the fact that screening lists don't make the distinction as to whether or not a renter ultimately wins his case in housing court. James B. Fishman, Whelan's lawyer, explains that if the jury rules in his favor, the practice of collecting and selling names in New York may be banished entirely. According to Thomson Reuters, the practice has been ongoing since the 1980s.