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Website Created to Help Tenants May Soon be Shut Down

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JustFix.nyc (“JustFix”) was created by a nonprofit organization in collaboration with New York City courts for the purpose of helping tenants sue their landlords. Through this website, tenants can more easily attempt to resolve various issues, such as mold, rat infestations, and gas outages. JustFix launched in April 2020, just in time to help tenants without lawyers when they would normally have to file cases in person and the courts closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to being able to file cases online, tenants also received a waiver for the $45 fee requirement. Normally, tenants would have to pay or submit an application for poor person’s relief. The courts also helped tenants by waiving the requirement that paperwork had to be notarized, which tenants had normally completed at the courthouse. [1] 

However, the courts have recently done away with the waivers for the fee and notary requirements, leading to several application rejections. It is therefore likely that JustFix.nyc may not exist for much longer unless the website developers can add online functions for notarizing documents and accepting payments. If JustFix can, at the very least, create an online notarization tool, the website could potentially remain helpful as tenants still have an option to avoid the $45 fee through the submission of a notarized affidavit stating they cannot afford to pay. If the housing court gives JustFix permission and the means for online notarization, tenants could continue using the website to its fullest extent, which includes a tool that asks a series of questions at the start of a repair action that, once answered, generates the necessary papers and then directly submits those papers to the court. [2] 

Since reinstating the fee and notary requirements, tenants have found themselves in a difficult position again. Those without resources need to go through extra hurdles even just to print out the required paperwork. For example, one tenant in Queens, Stephanie Brown, was told by a JustFix employee that she had to fill out additional paperwork. In order to do so, Ms. Brown had to get the form sent to her brother-in-law who then printed the form from his office and later personally handed it to her. Just getting the form in the first place required several additional steps and maneuvering on Ms. Brown’s behalf, and she still has to somehow send the form over to the court after completing it. [3]

Tenants do have the option of going to a help center at each borough housing court during regular business hours. By going in person, tenants can also pay a filing fee at the court cashier’s window in the same visit. However, tenants are encouraged to call in advance to make an appointment to be able to see the cashier. Going to a help center in person can also be extremely difficult for those who cannot take time off from work. Although the court has “invited JustFix” to develop a system that would allow tenants to pay court filing fees online, JustFix still needs to get certain permissions from the court. Moreover, the JustFix team had little notice of the change in rules and now needs time and resources to develop a payment system. [4] Seeing that the court has given JustFix some permission for a remote payment system, it is possible that the court might also give JustFix permission for the development of an online notarization system. Such a development would almost certainly help JustFix remain a helpful resource.

[1] Emma Whitford, “Policy Swap Bungles Tool For NYC Renters Suing For Repairs”, Law360, 4 June 2021, https://www.law360.com/realestate/articles/1391241/policy-swap-bungles-tool-for-nyc-renters-suing-for-repairs, acc. 7 June 2021.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.; JustFixNYC, “Housing Court Blocks Tenants From Suing their Landlords”, JustFixNYC, 4 June 2021,  https://justfixnyc.medium.com/housing-court-blocks-tenants-from-suing-their-landlords-d7b9e3629a32, acc. 15 June 2021.

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