JustFixNYC, a tenant’s rights organization, recently launched a LawHelp Interactive-powered mobile and web application, the Emergency Housing Part Action tool, that allows renters to sue their landlord for emergency repairs that are required by New York City renter protections. This integration with LawHelp Interactive was developed under an Legal Services Corporation Technology Innovation Grant. The remote legal option has generated media attention from outlets like CNN and the Appeal.
With the expiration of federal eviction moratoriums through the CARES Act, and state and local government moratoriums expiring across the country, the scale of the crisis makes both legal assistance and self-advocacy tools (including those powered by Pro Bono Net and its partners) are more important for renters than ever.
JustFix’s tool allows tenants who smell gas, have a broken toilet, have no hot water, or any other safety issue that their landlord is not addressing to sue their landlord from their mobile phone. All tenants have to do is answer a series of questions. Law Help Interactive auto-generates a court form that they can e-sign and e-file right on JustFixNYC’s portal. Before JustFixNYC’s tool, New York City renters typically had to fill these forms out in person.
“We want renters across New York City to know that your landlord is required to make essential repairs to your home and building, even during a pandemic,” Just Fix NYC’s acting Executive Director, Georges Clement, told CNN. “If your landlord is neglecting their obligation and endangering your health and safety, this enables you to take immediate legal action right from your home.” Though evictions are suspended in New York state until September 4th, state housing courts are holding remote emergency proceedings for things like illegal lockouts and emergency repairs.
Simple repairs like a kitchen leak, can be devastating for New Yorkers staying home to stay safe and limit the spread of the Coronavirus.
One renter, Mabel Perez, lives with her grandmother, mother and her two children. This spring, her kitchen sink began leaking, and they’ve had to put buckets under it each time they use it. With four generations of her family at home, this quick fix is more than an inconvenience—it’s a safety hazard. But her landlord, who had stopped doing basic repairs during the pandemic, and was only doing “emergency repairs,” refused to fix it because it was not an “emergency.” A building employee even suggested she could stop using her kitchen sink.
Using JustFix’s new tool, Mabel was able to sue her landlord and she was still waiting for the court to hear her case this spring.
Her story makes clear that self-advocacy tools are essential for families to access state and local renter protections, including eviction moratoriums, which are often skirted by landlords or underenforced.
LawHelp Interactive (LHI) is a program of Pro Bono Net, a nonprofit leader in deploying technology and collaboration to increase access to justice. LHI is a national online document assembly platform that allowd people representing themselves to prepare their own legal documents and pleadings online for free. For more information about LHI, visit here.