Under the new Commercial Lease Program, small businesses can now receive up to 40 hours of free legal consultations to resolve issues around business leases, eviction notices and contract disputes.

Photo Credit: DNA Info

Small businesses, considered the lifeline of the city’s neighborhoods, can now receive free legal support from the city, as Mayor de Blasio announced yesterday. A new initiative, the Commercial Lease Assistance Program, offers pre-litigation services to help small business owners resolve issues related to a business lease – before they end up in court.

“Small businesses across this city are feeling the squeeze of rising costs,” said Councilmember Robert E. Cornegy. “Too often, landlords take advantage of the strain our mom-and-pops are under in order to push them out of their commercial space in search of tenants who would pay more.”

The program, offered by the NYC Department of Small Business Services, will allow small business owners to obtain free legal assistance on topics such as negotiating a lease, resolving landlord issues, responding to an eviction notice, breach of contract disputes and lease renewal.

The city is allocating $2.4 million in funding over two years to offer an average of 40 hours of legal services per client provided by a dedicated attorney to work with each business owner. These services can include sending legal correspondence to a landlord, addressing issues related to tenant harassment and resolving challenges when a building changes ownership. The program is offered in partnership with Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A, Volunteers of Legal Services and the Urban Justice Center.

“For many small businesses, particularly in underserved communities, basic legal matters can be a hurdle too high to overcome, as establishments do not have adequate financial resources to hire representation in a court of law,” said Borough President Eric Adams. “This program helps ensure there is an equal playing field for all small businesses working to address lease issues.”

Eligible for this program are small business owners who cannot otherwise afford an attorney. Examples of businesses that may be eligible include minority-, veteran- and women-owned businesses, entrepreneurs who employ local low-income residents or offer job training opportunities, and businesses that are located in a rezoned or high-poverty areas.

“Any time we are helping our immigrant, minority, women or veteran-owned businesses is a win for Brooklyn and its economic development,” said Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Andrew Hoan.

Services are available immediately and provided in ten languages including Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Bengali, Haitian Creole, Korean, Arabic, Urdu, French and Polish. For more information, businesses can visit nyc.gov/commlease, call 311 or access the SBS Comprehensive Guide to Commercial Leasing.

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