A computer glitch at the New York City Housing Authority landed hundreds of families in court, many threatened with eviction for failing to pay a higher rent.
Families whose sole source of income is public assistance were overcharged between $50 and $200 a month -- with the average mistake being about $180. None of the tenants were evicted, housing officials said.
Tenants were mistakenly charged based on the number of people in a household rather than the number of people receiving public assistance, housing advocates said.
Residents affected by the miscalculations were ordered to appear in Housing Court for nonpayment of the extra rent. Some tried in vain to convince building managers that there had been a mistake and lived in constant fear of losing their homes because they could not or would not pay the extra money, the New York Times reported.
One tenant at the Lincoln Houses in East Harlem was forced to make six appearances in Housing Court from October to May. The Housing Authority only dropped the case after her lawyers, with the firm Dewey & LeBoeuf, threatened to sue the agency over the mistakes. Like other tenants taken to court, she received free legal help, the Times said.
While it is unclear exactly how many tenants were overcharged and how many had nonpayment cases filed against them, housing officials said 1,973 families met the criteria for a possible error.
Officials said the mistake is in the process of being fixed.