An Upper East Side woman has filed a federal discrimination suit against her former landlord, alleging she has been evicted from her apartment because of her cancer.
Heatheran Kristopher said she spent two years battling colon and ovarian cancer. When her rent went into arrears, her landlord at the time worked with her.
“They made a payment plan for me,” she said. Kristopher paid back everything she owed and continued to pay rent.
But things changed when the apartment building on East 81st Street was sold, she said. The new landlord refused to honor the lease agreement she had worked out with the previous owner and raised her rent by $750 a month up to almost $3,000, shortened the lease time and demanded additional security money totaling thousands of dollars.
“They worried if my cancer came back, I wouldn’t be in a position to pay my rent,” Kristopher said.
Kristopher rejected the deal but said she continued to pay as she had and filed a discrimination complaint with the New York Division of Human Rights. It determined there was probable cause, but Kristopher decided against pursuing that case at that time.
But things changed dramatically for her last week. An eviction notice was put on her door, and on Monday, city marshals arrived to change the locks. With the help of neighbors and family, Kristopher has moved her belongings into storage and is living temporarily with a friend.
Her complaint before the U.S. Southern District alleges she was discriminated against solely on the basis of her disability, her cancer.
George Shea, a spokesman for the landlord, Stone Street Properties, said her lease had expired and she was living in the building without one.
“Management was highly sensitive to the tenant’s illness and made repeated efforts to settle this case, including offering a one-year lease extension with no rent increase," he said in a statement.
Shea described the claim of discrimination as "untrue, unfair and deeply unfortunate."
Kristopher is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, and in the meantime, she will look for new lodging.
“I’m not going to let this break me,” she said.