Lawsuit settlement creates new NYCHA procedures

September 2, 2014

 

In 2012, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) implemented a policy of aggressively requiring tenants, most of them elderly and disabled, to move to smaller apartments corresponding to their household size. NYCHA pursued eviction proceedings against tenants who failed to move. Legal Services NYC-Bronx sued NYCHA in 2012 on behalf of three tenants, alleging that, among other things, NYCHA had failed to provide tenants with clear written notices, failed to respond to tenants’ requests to add family members to their family compositions, failed to allow disabled tenants to remain in their apartments as a reasonable accommodation of their disabilities, and failed to provide tenants selected for involuntary transfer with a grievance procedure to challenge their selection.

The case has recently settled with an agreement that requires NYCHA to make important changes to its downsizing and other policies. The terms of the settlement are outlined below. If you believe NYCHA has not complied with the terms of the settlement as it relates to your client’s involuntary transfer, you or your client should request a grievance. If NYCHA fails to process a grievance or does so in way that violates the settlement agreement, please contact Legal Services attorneys Amy Leipziger at aleipziger@lsnybronx.org or Natasia DeSilva at ndesilva@lsnybronx.org.

 

THE SETTLEMENT

 

Involuntary Transfers Limited to “Extremely Underoccupied” Apartments    

·         Only those tenants whose apartments are “extremely underoccupied” (more than one extra bedroom) will be required to transfer to smaller apartments.

·         Tenants with one extra bedroom (“underoccupied apartments”) may be asked to transfer voluntarily, but the transfer will not be required and NYCHA should not take any action should the tenant decide not to move.

 

Adding Family Members to Household or Requesting Reasonable Accommodation

·         All tenants may ask NYCHA to add eligible family members to their households. NYCHA will consider all requests and must respond in writing. NYCHA may not deny a request to add a family member to the household composition because the apartment is underoccupied or extremely underoccupied.

·         Tenants may also request a reasonable accommodation that would allow them to remain in their apartments if they have a disability that makes it difficult/detrimental to move. They may also request accommodations relating to the location or configuration of an apartment to which they are required to move.

·         Tenants who agree to move in stipulations resolving termination of tenancy proceedings may make requests to add persons to their household or request reasonable accommodation at any time up to seven  business days after the date of a letter notifying them of the selection of a transfer apartment.

 

Tenant Choice

·         Tenants who are required to transfer involuntarily will be given permission to remain in their current development or to choose to move to a development on a list of available developments for transfer. Tenants who select a development pursuant to this procedure will have those selections honored.

 

Grievance Procedures

·         All tenants contacted by NYCHA about transferring involuntarily may request a grievance regarding the proposed involuntary transfer within 14 days of the date of the initial notice of involuntary transfer.

 

Resolving Termination Proceedings for Failure to Move

·         Proceedings can be resolved by the tenant agreeing to move.

·         If a tenant refuses to move after agreeing to move in settlement of a termination of tenancy proceeding, the tenant may only cure the situation if the tenant subsequently developed a need for reasonable accommodation or if the tenant’s household size has increased as a result of birth, legal adoption or court-ordered guardianship.

 

Refusal of Apartments Offered in Involuntary Transfers

·         Tenants have the right to request an inspection of an apartment offered in an involuntary transfer and will not be required to move into an apartment that is not habitable.

 Also under the settlement, beginning August 19, 2014, plaintiff’s counsel can bring individual instances of non-compliance with the settlement to NYCHA’s counsel for resolution.