Oh, dear. This Times article about how there's a database of renters who have had disputes with previous landlords, which landlords look at when vetting potential tenants, is kind of scary. This information is pulled up in the same screening runs that give credit, employment, and criminal record information. While landlords do have a right to be informed about their tenants, this news is disturbing because there are some spectacularly bad landlord-tenant situations. In NYC, where closets can be rented at crazy amounts, landlords have the advantage. Prospective renters who have been shut out of apartments are suing some of these screening services, and the Times notes that in NY, In New York, Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell "may propose legislation to protect tenants who withhold rent to protest a landlord's behavior."
More about tenant rights: NYC.gov FAQ For Tenants, including questions like, "What should I do if my building owner is harrassing me?", NYC Rent Guidelines Boards, and Tenant.net, another good resource for NYC tenant law.