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April 2, 2014- There are many useful websites that summarize New York law governing tenant’s rights, such as this one.
The tenants who were tricked into signing riders in their lease agreeing to eviction, might have a case that the terms were “Unconscionable”. Also, if any tenant has filed complaints, or blogged about the evictions, that might qualify as an “assembly” and be protected. Even in market rate buildings, landlords cannot retaliate by eviction.
RIGHT TO COMPLAIN AND ORGANIZE
9. Right to Be Protected Against Retaliatory Eviction
LL of residential premises (unless owner-occupied with less than four units) shall not (a) serve a notice to quit, (b) commence an eviction proceeding, or (c) substantially alter terms of tenancy (includes refusal to renew lease or offer new lease, but if T wins, LL need only offer 1-year renewal or new lease) in retaliation for (a) T’s good faith complaint to governmental authorities regarding LL’s violations of health or safety law, (b) T’s actions to secure or enforce rights under lease, rental agreement, warranty of habitability, or other state or federal laws regulating residential premises, (c) T’s participation in tenant’s organization.
Retaliatory eviction is an affirmative defense to eviction proceeding (except for nonpayment of rent) if court finds LL acted in retaliation for the specified T activities and further finds that LL would not otherwise have sought eviction. If LL sues T within six months of T’s official complaint or suit, there is rebuttable presumption that LL is retaliating and LL has burden of providing credible explanation of non- retaliatory motive. T can sue LL for damages, but no presumption applies.
10. Right to Form, Join, or Participate in Tenant’s Group
LL cannot interfere with the right to T to form, join, or participate in any group formed to protect rights of tenants, nor harass or punish T or withhold any right from T for exercising this right. T’s group has right to meet on premises in areas devoted to common use.
34. Right Against Enforcement of “Unconscionable” Lease Clauses
A court that finds that a lease or lease clause was unconscionable when made may refuse to enforce the lease, enforce the lease without the unconscionable clause, or limit the clause to avoid unconscionable result.