If you are poor and live in the Bronx, landlord lawyers have a message for you: see you in court.
Bronx tenants are far more likely to be dragged into Housing Court–and ultimately kicked out of their apartments–than tenants in any other borough, according to a stunning new study of court data by the nonprofit Citizens Advice Bureau.
Even though the Bronx ranks fourth among the five boroughs in tenant population, it leads the city in almost all housing court actions initiated by landlords including non-payment petitions, total cases placed on court calendars, default and final judgments against tenants and marshal’s eviction orders. Not surprisingly, Bronx courts also ranked first in counter-motions filed by tenants in danger of imminent eviction.
And despite having about half as many tenants as Brooklyn, the Bronx has averaged about 5,700 evictions a year in the 1990’s–about the same as the more populous borough.
Bronx housing court is the city’s busiest primarily because of the large size of most apartment buildings in the borough–as well as the low incomes of the tenants, according to David Rubel, the report’s author. Bigger buildings, run by big management companies, often have the resources to retain lawyers to file rafts of nonpayment claims against tenants. And in the South Bronx, over 75 percent of tenants live in buildings with more than 20 apartments, compared to 44 percent in Brooklyn.
“In other poor neighborhoods, you have much smaller buildings run by smaller-time landlords,” Rubel said, “They don’t have the money to take tenants to court whenever they feel like it. In the Bronx, it’s a totally different situation.”
Bronx lawyers are also less willing to pursue out-of-court settlements, Rubel explained, because only 6.3 percent of Bronx tenants have lawyers of their own, compared with a citywide average of around 15 percent. For a copy of the report, call CAB at: 718-365-0910.