A recent move by the city’s court system to block the use of a free, online resource that allows tenants to more easily sue landlords for repairs or to stop harassment represents an “unnecessary, harmful and reckless setback” for housing justice, lawmakers and advocates say.
The resource in question is the Emergency HP Action (“EHPA”) Tool, which was created by the organization JustFix.nyc in collaboration with housing advocates and the court system itself, shortly after the coronavirus pandemic forced the city’s Housing Court to close its doors in March 2020.
Since that time, a state-imposed moratorium has halted nearly all residential eviction proceedings. But urgent cases concerning building conditions and harassment have continued, mostly virtually. Prior to the pandemic, tenants looking to sue their landlords over such complaints had to file in person. The HP Action tool was the first e-filing option for Housing Court, and JustFix says over 3,000 renters have made use of it in the last 15 months.
During the pandemic, the Court waived its normal $45 filing fee, as well as the requirement that the filings be notarized in person. But now, Governor Andrew Cuomo has officially ended New York's state of emergency, courts are slowly reopening, and those requirements have been reinstated. As a result, JustFix says, complaints filed through its HP Action tool are now being rejected by Housing Court, rendering the tool essentially unusable.