County fair housing officer plans landlord-tenant forum

HUDSON–A Tenant/Landlord Forum will take place Thursday, March 30, at 6 p.m. at the First Reformed Church, 52 Greene Street. County Fair Housing Officer Bill Fisher has asked legal experts to join him there to respond to concerns raised by all parties.

Meanwhile, on Friday, March 24, a representative for the Section 8 federal rental housing voucher program will come to the Hudson Library and accept walk-in applications, according to the Columbia County Housing Advisory Board. Although the Section 8 office that handles Columbia County is now in Saratoga Springs, the office plans to send a representative to Hudson twice a month on different days each month. For more information, the Housing Advisory Board suggests calling Dale Ann Brown at 518 372-8846, extension 120.

Also Monday, March 27 is the deadline for 3rd and 4th graders to submit Fair Housing posters. The posters will be judged on March 30 at the First Reformed Church on Green Street in Hudson at 4:30 p.m., an hour and a half before the Tenant/Landlord Forum. Letty Malin of the Housing Advisory Board said she has emailed teachers about the contest.

The Columbia County Housing Advisory Board discussed the forum, Section 8, the poster contest and specific housing problems at their meeting Thursday, March 9. Present were: Ed Coons, county director of Environmental Health; Tammy Flaherty, who runs the Senior Program in Canaan; Ms. Malin, from the Mental Health Association; Carol Michael from Galvan Housing Resources; and Mr. Fisher.

Mr. Fisher indicated that he expects Bob Romaker of Legal Aid and Hudson City Judge John Connor Jr. to attend. Topics Mr. Fisher intends to raise there include:

• Tenants’ Associations. “I get calls from people concerned about retaliation” if they ask for changes or repairs, Mr. Fisher said. “There’s strength in numbers,” he said

• Bailment, which occurs if a tenant leaves housing but leaves behind personal goods. Landlords have asked Mr. Fisher what to do with the items

• Privacy for tenants

• Foreclosed buildings. Mr. Fisher said tenants in such buildings have a right to stay there until a new owner has it occupied for residential purposes

• Smoking. “I get a lot of calls about smoking,” said Mr. Fisher. Some buildings that used to accept indoor smoking now no longer do. One elderly tenant in a non-smoking building was threatened with eviction for smoking in her apartment, despite her denying doing so. “Fortunately, she is still living there,” Mr. Fisher reported. “There is insufficient evidence of her smoking.”

Mr. Fisher also told the Housing Advisory Board about his recent cases, including an elderly couple—both disabled, one who worked in the rubble of the 9/11 attack–who received an eviction notice, even though they had always paid their rent. They told Mr. Fisher that they had been confused with another tenant, but at court “the judge didn’t want to hear it.” They have found a place with lower rent and are moving there. Mr. Fisher reported that he advised them get their security deposit back.

A woman and her mother who rent living quarters in a private dwelling asked Mr. Fisher about building a handicap access ramp to the building. Mr. Fisher told her that as long as she pays for it, the landlord cannot refuse. He said he advised her to mail a copy of her building plans to the landlord by a certified letter with a return receipt request. He also told her to ask the local building code enforcement officer whether she will need a building permit.

Together Mr. Fisher and Ms. Flaherty reported the case of a young veteran and college student, who has full custody of a daughter whose mother was found to have abused her. An employee of the county Department of Social Services (DSS), accompanied by the veteran asked the landlord whether he accepted VASH, a special rent voucher for veterans. The landlord said yes but did agree in writing. and the young man rented the apartment, the landlord refused to accept voucher.

The young veteran contacted Mr. Fisher, who advised him to contact Legal Aid. But Legal Aid said that because the landlord’s agreement was not in writing, the agency couldn’t help him. Mr. Fisher has advised him to contact a non-profit social services organization that focuses on housing.

The next Housing Advisory Board meeting will take place Thursday, May 11, at 1 p.m. in the community room of Crosswinds in Hudson.

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