Projects, Units & Initiatives
Consumer Law Project
The Consumer Law Unit (CLP) provides representation in various administrative and judicial forums, legal assistance and legal advocacy to the community, and legal education and support to peers throughout the Civil Practice, The Legal Aid Society, and New York City. We engage in legislative and systemic advocacy to protect and define the rights of low-income New Yorkers in matters of consumer law and provides education to clients who are vulnerable to the abusive practices of unscrupulous lenders and creditors, handling issues such as access to financial services, debt collection, debt settlement company abuses, credit fraud, auto loans, medical debt, student loans, bankruptcies, and landlords harassing former tenants
Recently, the Broken Lease Project assisted a low-income, elderly immigrant couple—Mr. T and Ms. T—with issues following their tenancy in a rent-stabilized apartment building in Queens. The couple had moved into the apartment in February 2012 and had made numerous oral complaints regarding the lack of heating in the apartment and its impact on Ms. T’s health.
Ms. T has a number of medical conditions, including asthma, gastritis, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia. They had also complained to the superintendent about mold infestation in the apartment, and on several occasions filed complaints regarding the lack of heating with New York City Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). After the landlord failed to rectify the conditions in the apartment, Mr. T and Ms. T moved out in September 2015 and their security deposit was never returned. The landlord initiated a lawsuit in Queens County Civil Court against the couple seeking over $5,000 in rental arrears from October 2015 through February 2016, after deducting the amount of the couple’s security deposit. Mr. And Ms. T were never served with the summons and complaint and only obtained notice of the lawsuit through an advertisement mailed to them by a debtor’s law firm. With the assistance of Mayer Brown LLP, the Broken Lease Project represented the couple and were able to obtain dismissal of the lawsuit.
CLP has recently launched a new pro bono opportunity with Mayer Brown LLP and Covington & Burling LLP: the Broken Lease Project. Through this project, associates from these law firms represent tenants facing lawsuits from landlords for tenancy-related claims in New York City Civil Courts and New York Supreme Court. The Society hopes to expand the scope of this project in the near future to include affirmative litigation against unscrupulous landlords, management companies, and their law firms in an attempt to encourage them to change their business practices.