April 5, 2023 - Hughes Hubbard and The Legal Aid Society filed a class action lawsuit against the New York City Department of Social Services (DSS) for its unlawful termination of rental vouchers for low-income New Yorkers.

The lawsuit is centered around two programs – the Family Homelessness and Eviction Prevention Supplement (FHEPS) and the City Fighting Homelessness and Eviction Prevention Supplement (CityFHEPS) – which provide rent supplements to families facing eviction or homelessness. Both programs were developed to prevent at-risk families from entering the shelter system, or to enable their quick exit from shelters. Many of those receiving rent subsidies lost their housing, or their ability to pay for housing, due to domestic violence, health or safety issues.

Each of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit qualifies for rent subsidies under either FHEPS or CityFHEPS, but DSS has routinely failed to renew households' subsidies in a timely manner, causing rental payments to be terminated without notice, and is currently months behind in processing renewals. The DSS will also regularly terminate FHEPS rent supplements, with no notice, when a family recertifies their public assistance case. Often, residents don't know this has happened until they receive eviction papers.

“New York City families that need rental subsidies must be able to rely on those subsidies continuing for as long as they qualify for them. Instead, DSS is pulling the rug out from under these families and breaking its own rules in doing so," said Fara Tabatabai in a press statement.

The class action complaint describes the complex bureaucracy that each plaintiff has been forced to navigate, pointing out that one – Tabitha Daniel – attempted to renew her rent assistance through mail, email, fax, and by visiting an office in person, all to no avail. The complaint also highlights that, due to the DSS' inaction, the plaintiffs have been unable to pay their rent and could be sued for eviction by their landlords at any time.

The New York Times, Brooklyn Eagle, Bronx Times and Class Action Prospector have covered the lawsuit.

Tabatabai is representing the plaintiffs alongside The Legal Aid Society.