Free Tenants' Rights Telephone Hotline
December 25, 2013 and January 1, 2013 - The hotline will be closed in observance of the Christmas and New Year's Day holidays.
Note: Our hotline is staffed by volunteer members. Sometimes we are forced to close on short notice if our volunteer are unexpectedly unable to come in.
The Metropolitan Council on Housing's tenants' rights telephone hotline is open on
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays,
From 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The hotline is free and open to any tenant living in New York City. We are closed on holidays, and other times when we are unexpectedly under-staffed.
What services does Met Council on Housing provide tenants who call the telephone hotline?
We can give brief answers to your rights as a tenant, and explain your options for dealing with a housing situation.
Common questions relate to:
- getting repairs from negligent landlords
- getting adequate heat in the winter months
- dealing with the threat of eviction
- questions about leases and lease renewals
- legal rent increases for rent-regulated apartments
We can also provide referrals to agencies, community organizing groups, and tenant lawers - either free legal services or private-practice lawyers, depending on your situation.
What we don't do:
- We cannot give legal advice - we're trained volunteers, not lawyers. While we can explain your rights and options under the law, we cannot advise you on how to proceed in a legal case. However, we may be able to refer to help you with finding a lawyer.
- We don't give rental assistance or provide help with back-rent. We're a grassroots membership organization, and we don't have the funds for this. However, we may be able to refer you to an agency that can assist with this, if you just can't afford the rent.
- We cannot advocate on your behalf nor do we have any extra pull with city or state agencies. We can give you pointers on how to be an effective advocate for yourself.
- We cannot help you locate new housing or place you in housing - for that, check our website here.
Do you offer legal advice over the phone?
No. Our tenants' rights telephone counselors are trained volunteers, not lawyers. We can tell you about your rights as a tenant, your options for solving a problem with your housing situation, and strategies for how to assert your rights. We can educate you about the laws that exist to protect you. However, we cannot advise you about how to proceed on legal matters. Only lawyers are legally permitted - and qualified - to do that.
While we do not offer legal advice, most tenants who call us don't need that – they simply need to know their rights, and strategies for enforcing them. In cases where tenants need legal representation, we may be able to refer tenants to organizations that have lawyers, or to private tenant attorneys.
Most tenants who need free legal assistance are unable to obtain it. There is no right under the law to a free lawyer for low-income people facing civil court cases, as there is for defendants in criminal cases. Met Council on Housing is fighting to change this, but currently the government does not provide this support. Some nonprofit organizations offer free legal assistance to tenants, but since funds are limited, only a small percentage of people in need are served, and most are turned away. In New York City's Housing Courts, 90% of tenants facing an eviction do not have legal representation, while 98% of landlords do.
Met Council on Housing's tenants' right telephone hotline is a unique service in that we offer free advice to tenants who need to advocate for themselves. Many organizations that provide legal assistance refer tenants to us whom they're unable to represent. Our hotline is very unique – it's one of the only places where New York City tenants can call for a simple question about their housing issue and get an answer. And we operate the only hotline that can connect tenants in need to organizing efforts to improve policies and affect change at the structural level. This is all supported primarily by membership dues and donations from people like you who believe in fighting for affordable housing rights for all.
Please note that our telephone counselors are members of Met Council on Housing who volunteer their time on an ongoing basis for free because they care deeply about helping tenants in need. Our volunteers stay keep up-to-date on the latest developments in housing, regularly reading up on housing news, to provide the best advice possible. While we're not lawyers, the complexity of housing law in New York City is such that lawyers who practice other areas of law are unfamiliar with many tenant issues. Many of Met Council on Housing's volunteers are among the most knowledgeable people on tenants' rights issues in New York City. When we can't answer a question or be of assistance, and when we are difficult to reach, we appreciate your understanding.
I keep calling during open hours, but I can't get through! Why are the phones so busy?
Our free tenants' rights telephone hotline is a unique service in New York City. There is no city agency that provides a similar service, so we have a tremendous number of calls. The demand for our services is very high, and we often have more calls come through than we have volunteers able to
Tips on getting through:
- Our busiest time is when the hotline first opens at 1:30 p.m. Dozens of people try to reach us all at once. Try calling between 2:30 and 4 PM, when the hotline is typically slower.
- If you can't get through, wait 5 minutes and call back later.
- Mondays are our busiest day - and the hardest to get through.
- Don't wait until the last minute to call us! If you've been offered a lease you don't understand, faced an obstacle getting a repair made, suffered a night without heat, fallen behind in the rent, or were given papers to show up in court, call us as soon as you can. That way, if our hotline is closed, or if you can't get through the first time, you can try back later!
Why doesn't Met Council on Housing do call-backs about housing questions?
It's a matter of capacity - we're doing the best we can on limited resources. Since this is a volunteer-staffed hotline, we always need volunteers!
When we have tried doing call-backs in the past, by the time we returned the call, many people had already tried the hotline at a later point and got their question answered.
We try to be as available as we can by keeping our hotline open for over 10 hours per week in the afternoons, and by running an evening clinic 11 months per year on Tuesday nights.
How can I become a volunteer telephone counselor on Met Council on Housing's Tenants' Rights Telephone Hotline?
We're always looking for new volunteers to help on our hotline! We will provide training and guidance - no experience is necessary, only your willingness to learn, and your availability during our hotline's open hours. To express interest, call during our hotline's open hours at 212-979-0611, or contact us via this website.