Legal Services of the Hudson Valley and Other NY Legal Aid Programs Submit Amicus Brief in Case Challenging the State’s Defective Code Enforcement in Rental Properties
April 17, 2024

Legal Services of the Hudson Valley and Other NY Legal Aid Programs Submit Amicus Brief in Case Challenging the State’s Defective Code Enforcement in Rental Properties

NEW YORK STATE- Legal Services of the Hudson Valley (LSHV), Legal Assistance of Northeastern New York, Legal Services of Central New York, and the Center for Elder Law and Justice submitted an amicus brief documenting prevalent defects in the enforcement of building codes designed to ensure the safety and habitability of rental properties in New York State. The legal services organizations represented the groups For the Many, Community Voices Heard, and United Tenants of Albany – the amici.

In the case titled Keionzie Clements v. New York Secretary of State, the Petitioner – represented by LawNY – argued that due to a lack of adequate enforcement standards from the Secretary of State, who has statutory oversight authority, tenants are subject to unsafe building conditions and at risk of homelessness by the ejectment of tenants in place of ensuring repairs. The brief argues that the lack of minimum standards for local code enforcement has provided opportunities for municipalities to misuse the code against tenants and disparately impact people of color.

The brief included supporting citations stating:

“A 2019 Senate investigative report found that code enforcement is not prioritized, “adequate deterrents do not exist,” and that “local governments are failing to protect their residents, and the State is disregarding its obligations to assist in code enforcement.”4 In 2018, the Yonkers Inspector General issued a report finding inadequate systems, failure to ensure illegal and condemned apartments were not re-occupied, and rampant bribery.5 Amici have seen nothing change. Albany, one of the cities investigated by the Senate, received a grant to expand its code enforcement operations in 2019, but to date prioritizes evictions over code enforcement.6 In Yonkers, 2023 litigation involving an illegal apartment uncovered that there had been an illegal unit complaint on file for two years.”

Furthermore, throughout LSHV’s Hudson Valley service area, tenants’ personal property is routinely disrespected and left outside to be stolen or destroyed after a government-ordered displacement in the form of an eviction warrant or a condemnation. There is no state law and almost no local laws or written policies in the Hudson Valley regarding tenants’ belongings. A person can lose her medications, documents, clothing, bed, books, and photos in the process of being rendered homeless, increasing instability, expenses, and trauma. The codes put in place to protect New York tenants are being used against them and contributing to systemic issues perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

“Inadequate code enforcement is a statewide problem,” said Marcie Koback, Litigation Director at Legal Services of the Hudson Valley. “There is a long history of code enforcement being employed to displace tenants of color but not to require landlords to make repairs.”

On March 28, 2024, the Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department, in a 3-2 split decision, affirmed a previous decision by the Albany County Supreme Court to dismiss the case challenging the Secretary of State’s supposed failure to implement appropriate standards to ensure the proper use of code enforcement in rental properties.

The decision can be found at While the decision to dismiss was not favorable for New York State tenants, the majority found that a legislative fix is required.

About Legal Services of the Hudson Valley

For more than 50 years, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley (LSHV) has been providing free, high-quality legal counsel in civil matters when basic human needs are at stake, including eviction and foreclosure prevention, domestic violencedisability, elder law, healthcare, consumer fraud, and more. Our services support almost 600,000 poor and low-income families and individuals who cannot afford an attorney in our seven-county service area. With the gap separating those who can and cannot afford legal representation widening each day, we work to ensure that everyone has equal access to justice, regardless of their ability to pay. As the only provider of free comprehensive civil legal services in the lower and mid-Hudson Valley (Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Rockland, Orange, Ulster, and Sullivan), LSHV is proud to have handled 12,140 cases impacting over 23,836 household members, including 8,392 children last year. LSHV is made up of ten offices and a dedicated and highly skilled staff of attorneys, paralegals, and administrative professionals.

For more information about Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, contribute or volunteer, please visit, or contact Jazmine Leon at 914-949-1305 x270 or