Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New York Supreme Court rules Court can continue to sell case information

The New York City Housing Court (“NYCHC”) maintains a database of every matter that passes through its court. “Okay…so what’s the problem with that?” you may ask. Well, a Landlord may obtain this information for a fee from one of the various organizations who purchase this information from the Court. This practice may result in prospective tenants being rejected and/or blacklisted for a housing application due to the Landlord’s perception that the prospective tenant is a “problem tenant” due to the tenant’s name surfacing in a search. However, an attorney has challenged this operation as it paints an incomplete and unfair picture with respect to prospective tenants.

For example, the information obtained does not include a tenant’s reasons behind filing or their ultimate disposition of the case. Meaning, even if the tenants were “in the right” for bringing and/or defending an action, the Landlord is not privy to this information. Instead, the Landlord merely ascertains that the prospective tenant has been a party (it does not even specify whether the tenant brought the action or is defending it) to a NYCHC action and may subsequently unfairly dismiss this tenant as problematic.

As of yesterday, the tenant in Whelan v. Lippman lost the bid to bar the Court System from selling this potentially harmful information to third-party companies by denying the tenant’s motion for a preliminary injunction. The underlying case concerning the “blacklisting” of tenants, however, was not dismissed. We will continue to monitor both the underlying case and any potential appeal of the related case. In the interim, be wary that your potential Landlord may utilize these services when reviewing your application.