Most cases started in housing court are settled outside the courtroom: in mediation or even in the hallway. These settlements when put in writing are called "stipulations." A stipulation lists what each side has agreed to do. It is a binding contract so before you agree to anything, consider the following:
You have a right to speak to a judge before you make a settlement or sign an agreement.
Before you sign a stipulation, remember, you will be held to whatever terms you agree to in writing.
Even though you may want to settle your case quickly, don't feel pressured into making a settlement you don't understand. If you are told or asked to sign something that you don't understand, DO NOT sign it.
Negotiation should be a two way process. You don't have to accept the first offer presented to you; make them an offer in response.
A stipulation may be written by your attorney, the landlord's attorney, a mediator or the judge's law assistant but remember, don't feel pressured into signing it if you do not fully agree or understand the terms.
Make sure everything you agreed to is written in the agreement before you sign it. If you do not understand what you are being asked to sign, ask the judge to explain it to you. You have the right to request a trial. Remember that if you have a trial and lose, no pay-out schedule may be ordered by the judge and you will have to pay the whole amount in 5 days.
If your apartment needs repairs, you can ask that repairs be made in your apartment before you pay the rent owed. Put this in writing and be sure to include a date for allowing access to your apartment and a date by which the repairs should be completed.
Only a judge can order you to pay legal fees.
If you cannot follow-through with the signed stipulation, you may return to court and file an Order to Show Cause, but remember, you must state good reasons for not following the terms of the stipulation.
If you need an interpreter, ask the judge.
If you have more questions, visit the
HOUSING COURT INFORMATION TABLE PROJECT
in the lobby (or by Part 18) of Manhattan Civil Court
111 Centre Street
Monday through Friday from 9 am to 12 noon
This information was prepared by the City-wide Task Force on Housing Court. We are a not-for-profit coalition of community organizations. This information was not prepared by attorneys but by experienced housing advocates and should not be thought of as legal advice.