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Many New York City residents are discovering that they have unknowingly signed a tenant non-disclosure agreement (NDA) when they signed their lease paperwork, and now they are gagged from speaking out about construction inefficiencies. 

When Billy the Builder hit the sidewalks outside 11 Greene Street in New York City, he was shocked to learn that tenants of the problem-plagued, non-union building had signed non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). An NDA is essentially a gag order. Normally, these legal contracts are reserved for the world of business, politics, and media— used to stop an employee from leaking trade secrets, or prevent a high stakes negotiation from being compromised. So why would tenants of 11 Greene Street have to sign an NDA just to live in the building? 


When you look at the litany of issues residents are facing—  from warped floors, to HVAC problems, to broken elevators and more— it starts to make sense. 11 Greene Street is billed as luxury living and its residents are paying between $10 and $18 grand a month to live there. It would be bad for business if word spread that shoddy, non-union construction was turning the living experience into a nightmare. So the management company put an NDA in the lease to prevent current residents from sharing their non-union horror stories and warning off potential tenants. 


It turns out, this practice is all too common at non-union buildings. Previous Union Built Matters reporting found that tenants at the Hero building in Jackson Heights, 20 Exchange Place in the financial district, and 2 Blue Slip on the Brooklyn waterfront all have signed NDAs. All of these buildings were built by non-union contractors; all of them have serious issues making life a nightmare for tenants.

Beware the documents you sign when finalizing your lease. You may sign away your right to speak out.

These agreements leave tenants voiceless and put them into something akin to a hostage situation. They are locked into a lease at a building plagued with issues that make their lives miserable, and they can’t even bring attention to their problem without the risk of being sued.


Why would a tenant agree to sign such an agreement before moving into a new building? The answer is simple: most don’t even know they are signing an NDA because it's buried in the fine print. This was confirmed by a tenant Billy the Builder spoke to on condition of anonymity. He said he knew someone who lived in the building. It wasn’t until problems started arising  that the management company pointed out the NDA. “It was so small and so vague that you would of had no idea it was there until it was pointed out to you,” the tenant said. 


There are a couple clear lessons here for anyone looking for a place to live in New York: 1. Make sure your building is union built to avoid problems related to shoddy construction. 2. Be wary of signing an NDA.


Mark Colangelo is a writer and blogger.

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