NYC Tenant Blacklist Guide

Originally posted on December 02, 2022 3:00 pm
Updated on November 28, 2022 8:08 pm

Finding a place to rent in NYC is difficult, but some people have had a harder time than others. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but one of the things people most often blame is the tenant blacklist. Some people think that landlords have a list of people not to rent apartments too, but how legitimate is this claim? Is there a tenant blacklist? If so, how do you end up on it? How can you get yourself removed from it? We have all these answers, and more, below.

What is the Tenant Blacklist?

First and foremost, the tenant blacklist is real…sort of. See, the government keeps data of everyone with a history of delinquent payments and those who have ever gone to housing court. This data is purchased from the government by different tenant screening companies, which can then be utilized by landlords while performing background checks into potential tenants. Though a blacklist doesn’t explicitly exist, tenants with a housing court history will likely have negative search results when looked-up, which might make it seem like their applications are rejected more often.

Can Your Application Be Rejected Because of Your Housing Court History?

The short answer to this question is, “no.” However, it can get a bit more complicated than that. In 2019, NYC made it illegal for landlords to reject applications based on a complicated housing court history or a bad relationship with a previous landlord. Landlords who do reject applications for this reason can be fined up to $1000 if they are caught. 

The issue is, it’s hard to catch them doing this stuff. Landlords can just point out another reason to reject a renter and housing court info is public. Even if a landlord does get caught rejecting applicants for going to housing court, they might just decide to pay the fine and keep doing it, knowing they can make that money back once they find a tenant they like. So what can be done?

Removing Your Name From a Housing Court Search

There are several ways to get your name removed from housing courts searches. For example, if you and your landlord get along well, part of the housing court settlement can be a tenant endorsement rather than a permanent stain on their record. This situation won’t work for everyone, as taking a landlord to housing court usually means something has gone very wrong. However, it never hurts to bring it up as an option.

Additionally, if a legal battle is coming, have your lawyer contact your landlord’s lawyer, and have them list you under John or Jane Doe. This is totally legal, and will keep you anonymous in court records about your case. This might make looking up your case difficult later, but finding a home will make that annoyance worth it.

Unfortunately, if you have already gone through housing court with your full name, you will just have to wait it out. There is an expiration date for your name to appear on housing court searches. The Fair Credit Reporting Act, for example, erases housing court data after seven years. Many housing court searches in NYC won’t include data that’s older than five years. It’s a long time to wait, but it will be erased eventually.

Avoid Housing Court Altogether

While this solution may seem like a pipedream, there is a way you can solve a building issue with a difficult landlord without resorting to housing court. The procedure is called a Housing Part action, or “HP.” All a tenant has to do is fill out a form saying that there is a building violation. The city will then send an inspector. If the inspector finds a violation, then the landlord is legally required to fix the issue or face heavy fines. Names are kept anonymous, so landlords can’t retaliate against tenants, and names are not entered into the housing court database.

Unfortunately, sometimes tenant and landlord disputes are a lot more personal. For example, you could be unable to pay rent due to circumstances beyond your control, your landlord could want you to move out for a variety of reasons, or you two just might not get along. Before going to housing court, check out this list of options when it comes to housing court alternatives and what to do if housing court is your only avenue.

How Do I Find a Home If My Name is on a Housing Court Search?

There are several ways to find an apartment if your name shows up on a housing court search. One of the simplest solutions is to keep applying for apartments. Again, landlords aren’t allowed to reject you for housing court violations, so finding an apartment to rent could be as easy as finding a landlord who doesn’t care about your rental history.

Having a bad relationship with one landlord doesn’t mean you’ve had a bad relationship with all landlords. If you have a robust rental history, find a landlord who you got along well with, and ask them to write you a recommendation. This will go a long way in terms of your credibility, especially if you get recommendations from multiple other landlords. Many building owners simply don’t get along with tenants, so it’s important to prove you’re still a good person to rent to.

A good way to not talk to a landlord at all is to find a place to sublet. Subletting is great for people with a housing court history because the lease holder deals with the landlord, not you. The landlord has to agree to the sublet, but the leaseholder is usually the one coming up with an agreement and does a background check. Lease holders should be more lenient than landlords since they are tenants as well, and likely know the struggles of finding a place to live in NYC.

In a similar vein, living with roommates is a great way to avoid a landlord background check. Your roommates might look into you, but they too will likely be more invested with finding someone to pay rent than they are with finding someone who’s never been to housing court. The best part about being a roommate is that you won’t even have to be on the lease. You never have to interact with the landlord of the building unless you want to, and you can use your new arrangement to wait for your housing court data to expire.

Know Your Rights

A lot of laws changed in 2019 to protect tenants from shady landlords, but the city hasn’t been proactive when it comes to spreading this good news. Essentially, if you know your name will pop-up in a housing search, it’s good to be upfront with that information and explain the situation to your prospective landlord. If they reject your application, ask them for the reason they rejected you. That could be your only chance to build a case against them.

Remember, landlords cannot discriminate against you for your housing court history or if you’ve been evicted. It is also illegal for them to compile a list of people they refuse to rent to. Use this information to your advantage when finding a home. You have tools that will work in your favor and it’s a good idea to use them.

Officially, there is no such thing as a tenant blacklist in NYC. However, housing court and other public data can essentially be turned into one, and can be used for illegal rejections that are hard for potential tenants to fight. There is still hope for you to find a home if your name is on this list, but you’ll want to do your best to try and avoid it. We understand that sometimes housing court is a tenant’s only option. Just know that, if you have no choice but to go to court, you have rights and other avenues to find a home.

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