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What are Tenant Blacklists and are they allowed?

Posted by Best Agent Commission Split NYC on December 7, 2023
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Introduction to Tenant Blacklists

The term “tenant blacklist” has become a hot topic in New York’s rental market, especially since the passage of the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019. This legislation has brought significant changes to the way landlords can use tenant screening information. But what exactly is a tenant blacklist, and how does it affect both landlords and tenants?

Defining the Tenant Blacklist

Contrary to what the name might suggest, a tenant blacklist is not an actual list. Instead, it refers to the practice of tenant screening bureaus collecting public court records to identify individuals who have been involved in disputes in the New York City Housing Court. These bureaus compile data, including names and addresses from these records, and sell the information to landlords who are in the process of vetting prospective tenants.

The Impact of Court Records on Tenants

When a potential tenant’s name appears in connection with a housing court case, it can significantly impact their ability to rent. The information provided by screening bureaus does not typically include details of the case, such as the nature of the dispute, the outcome, or whether a settlement was reached. This lack of context can lead to a negative perception of the tenant, regardless of the specifics of their case.

Protections Under the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act

The Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act aims to shield rental applicants from being unfairly rejected based on their involvement in previous landlord-tenant disputes. The Act establishes a rebuttable presumption of violation if a landlord, after checking with a tenant screening bureau or inspecting court records, refuses to rent to a potential tenant. This presumption can be challenged, but it places the initial burden of proof on the landlord to demonstrate that the decision was not based on the tenant’s court history.

Penalties for Landlords Using Blacklist Information

Landlords who are found to have denied housing to a potential tenant solely on the basis of housing court records can face fines ranging from $500 to $1,000. While the Act does not allow tenants to sue landlords directly for such rejections, it empowers the Attorney General to investigate and penalize landlords who violate this provision.

The Motivation Behind the Act’s Reforms

The reforms introduced by the Act are designed to protect tenants who have exercised their rights in housing court from being penalized in future rental applications. By prohibiting the use of court records as the sole basis for rejecting rental applicants, the Act seeks to create a fairer housing market where tenants can assert their rights without fear of future discrimination.

Understanding the Limitations of the Act

While the Act provides significant protections for tenants, it’s important to note that it does not create a private cause of action. This means that tenants themselves cannot bring a lawsuit against a landlord for being rejected based on housing court information. Instead, enforcement is left to the Attorney General, who has the authority to investigate and impose fines on landlords who violate the Act.


Tenant blacklists, as they are colloquially known, have been a contentious issue in the New York rental market. The Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 has taken steps to mitigate the negative impact of these blacklists on tenants, ensuring that past housing disputes do not unduly influence their future housing opportunities. Landlords and tenants alike must be aware of these regulations to navigate the rental process fairly and legally.

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