Housing Justice for All, a statewide coalition of more than 80 organizations representing tenants and homeless New Yorkers, says tenants, community members and elected officials gathered for a rally last Thursday at Queens Housing Court to support Carlene Hosang, a South Jamaica resident who is facing eviction from the home she has lived in for 13 years after rejecting her landlord’s alleged, repeated sexual advances.
“I have done everything right for 13 years. I’ve paid my rent on time, kept my apartment clean, and treated my neighbors with respect. Yet, I could lose my home simply because my landlord decided to take advantage of his position,” Housing Justice for All quoted Hosang as saying. “This is an abuse of power. It’s not right for landlords to hold so much power that they can kick people out on the streets just because they feel like it,” she added. “Tenants must have the right to fight back against landlords who exploit and abuse them. I am calling on our state lawmakers to pass Good Cause this year and help tenants fight for themselves.”
Housing Justice for All said in a statement that Hosang, a homecare worker and immigrant from Jamaica who lives in her home with her 19-year-old daughter, first started facing alleged harassment from the unidentified landlord during the pandemic.
“The landlord, who lives in the building, began to make comments of a sexual nature to her that grew more frequent and explicit over time,” the statement alleged, with stating the address of the building.
It claimed that, in November 2022, “the landlord threatened to call his lawyer to evict Hosang, and she came home to find her locks changed the same day.
“Hosang was only able to regain access to the apartment when her daughter stepped in,” Housing Justice for All said. “The landlord has continued to retaliate against Hosang, even turning off the gas this month after temperatures dropped.”
Housing Justice for All said Hosang has launched a lawsuit against the landlord and, on Thursday, faced her first court date at Queens Housing Court.
The housing advocacy organization said that Hosang’s story is “a microcosm of what tenants all over New York are facing in the absence of state laws to prevent unjust evictions.
“Millions of New Yorkers in unregulated housing can be kicked out of their home at a landlord’s whim – even if it’s in retaliation for personal reasons,” it said.
Tenants at the rally called on Albany legislators to pass Good Cause eviction protections (S.305 Salazar / A.4454 Hunter), a top priority in Albany.
Housing Justice for All said Good Cause “would end retaliatory, discriminatory, and unjust evictions and empower tenants to challenge exorbitant rent increases in court.”
It said the law would require landlords to justify rent increases greater than 3 percent or 150 percent of the Consumer Price Index, whichever is larger, and let tenants fight the increases in court if a landlord attempted to evict a tenant for not paying the new, higher rent.
If a landlord wants to deny a lease renewal, they would need to be prepared to justify the decision before a judge, Housing Justice for All said.
It said more than 1.6 million New Yorkers would benefit from Good Cause – half of all renters in New York State, and as many as 75 percent of tenants in some counties.
Housing Justice for All said the law would particularly impact women of color like Hosang, pointing to statistics that have shown that such women are disproportionately vulnerable to eviction. It said Black women, for example, are twice as likely to be evicted as white tenants.
“The power that landlords have in New York is completely out of control. If you’re an unregulated tenant in New York, your landlord’s power over you is absolute. It’s not something we would tolerate in the workplace, and we shouldn’t tolerate it in our homes as well. Gov. Hochul likes to talk about how she’s standing up for women. If she really means it, she’ll stand up for working-class women of color like Carlene, who are more likely to face eviction than any other group. We need Gov. Hochul and Albany lawmakers to pass Good Cause this year and give tenants the tools they need to stand up to abusive landlords,” said Cea Weaver, campaign coordinator for Housing Justice for All.
“The power dynamic in this case is clear: a few people with money, resources and power getting to make decisions for everybody else. One landlord decides whether to file an eviction and turn off the heat. One judge decides on the case. One governor decides whether the evictions keep on happening. Gov. Hochul has the power to stop these evictions from happening and they let it happen. The only solution is to wrest power away from landlords and have our state leaders help tenants fight for themselves by passing Good Cause,” said Aaron Fernando, communications lead at For The Many.