The New York State Office of Court Administration [OCA] sells the names of every tenant sued in housing court for eviction, handing over the names to private companies that create lists of potentially bad tenants. Landlords then buy the lists to screen out applicants, many of whom wind up on this list even if they win their housing court lawsuits. Or even if an error resulted in them getting sued by mistake. But now a legal team is going to court to fight the blacklisting.

James Whelan, a 52-year-old limo driver, has lived in his rent stabilized apartment for over 15 years, but after all this time his landlord wants to evict him so an unnamed family member can move in. If Whelan chooses to fight eviction, he'll end up in housing court, and his name will be sold to a blacklist company, making it very difficult for him to find a new home if he puts up a fight. Instead, he has filed a lawsuit against the OCA to avoid the inevitable blacklisting, and stop the OCA from releasing electronic data about him to the credit agencies.

Whelan's lawyers, in a statement, argue that "tenants who have deplorable conditions in their apartments used to be able to withhold their rent in order to force their landlords to make needed repairs. Because of the threat of blacklisting, however, many tenants are afraid to do so or to join rent strikes."

In case you're wondering, the housing court information is released in a data dump that sells for $20,000 for the first download and $350 for weekly updates. A spokesman for the court explains to City Room, "There’s a lot of public information out there that when people want it in this form, there’s a fee to cover costs."