Pro Bono News

Bridging The Divide: Upstate and Downstate Renters Join Forces (NY)

Monday, May 06, 2019

Bridging The Divide: Upstate and Downstate Renters Join Forces

"When Doreen and her husband split up five years ago, the pair reached an agreement. Doreen and the couple’s 7-year-old daughter could continue to live at her husband’s parents’ old place off Delaware Avenue in Albany. In exchange, Doreen would pay him $500 in rent out of the $700 she receives each month from Social Security — her sole source of income.

Doreen says the breakup, though it was never finalized in divorce, was the culmination of years of abuse that left her with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and social anxiety. (The Indypendent agreed to withhold her last name in order to protect her from possible retribution.) Despite paying more than 70 percent of her monthly income in rent and receiving no child support, Doreen says she has learned how to get by, living off food stamps and groceries from a local pantry and finding clothes for her and her daughter, now 12, in bargain bins downtown.

But on April 8, Doreen came home to the house she has resided in for 28 years to find a note taped to her door that threatened to upend the life she has built for herself and her child. The eviction notice, signed by her sister-in-law, charged that Doreen was obstructing the family’s ability to make repairs and sell the house. When her husband’s mother died three years ago, that left him and his four siblings executors of her estate. One of them, her husband’s older sister, wants to sell the home and is eager to boot Doreen out.

She was given 30 days to vacate.

“You can’t just give me 30 days when I’ve lived here 30 years,” she recalled saying to herself when she found the notice, tearfully recounting her story. “I thought I had rights as a tenant, but I guess I don’t.”

A Legal Aid Society attorney whom Doreen spoke with told her it could have been worse. She was lucky she didn’t get a 10-day notice, which is also permissible under Albany’s lax tenant protections..."

Continue reading