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Forest Hills discussion highlights rent scams

The event was an information session for seniors about their rights as tenants, including tips on how to make a noise complaint, what steps must be taken in a legal eviction, how to get repairs done in a rent-controlled or rent- stabilized apartment, and how to fight harassment. Two student interns at the Queens Community House's housing department, Jessica Wett and Daniel Sosa, talked the group through the scenarios and what protections tenants have under the law.The Queens Community House is a nonprofit organization founded in 1974 to help improve the quality of life of the borough's individuals, families, and communities. To this end, it offers informational meetings such as this one to educate tenants about their rights, and does so from several locations in the borough including Jamaica, Jackson Heights and Forest Hills.For apartment tenants facing eviction or those who come home to find court papers in the mail or under their door, Sosa told the group this is not a legal tactic to evict someone. Evictions must come as a city marshal's notice, not from the courts or directly from the landlord."The landlord has to take it through the proper channels. That's the only way it works," he said. "Say you come home and the landlord's locked you out, you can call the police to let you in. And if the police tell you they can't do that, refer them to Section 117-11 of the police procedures handbook."Wett and Sosa worked from a tipsheet they had distributed to their audience.For repairs, they advised tenants to notify the building super what needs to be done, send the request to the management company by certified mail with return receipt, then follow up to learn the date for the work. If the repairs do not get done, then tenants may file a complaint with the city's Division of Housing and Community Renewal or Housing Preservation and Development, or take the landlord to housing court, they said.Wett and Sosa said after the meeting that among the most frequent complaints the Queens Community House's housing department staff hear have to do with tenant harassment."Tenant harassment can take many forms," Wett said. "Say, your landlord claims [the apartment] is not your permanent residence, or keeps turning off your heat or hot water, trying to push you to a point where you get fed up and move out," these are all forms of harassment.A bill protecting tenants from strong-arm tactics passed the City Council last Thursday, Sosa said. The bill is an amendment to a local law and proposes to grant seniors the right to legal counsel in Housing Court in cases of eviction, and for those without the means to hire an attorney this could be a boon."You can call the Legal Aid Society, but their resources are limited," Wett said. "If this bill gets passed, it can help you in the future."Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at achristodoulides@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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