Chapter 1 | Table of Contents | Chapter 3

A Tenantís Guide To The New York City Housing Court

Chapter 2
Types of Cases Brought in Housing Court

Cases Brought by Landlords:
There are two types of cases your landlord can bring against you:

    1. Nonpayment cases: The landlord claims you owe rent and is suing to collect the overdue rent and to evict you if you do not or cannot pay it.

    2. Holdover cases: The landlord wants you evicted for reasons other than nonpayment of rent.

Cases Brought by Tenants:
There are three main types of cases you can bring against your landlord:

    1. Illegal Eviction proceedings: You ask the court to order your landlord or roommate to let you move back into your apartment after you have been illegally evicted.

    2. Housing Part ("HP") proceedings: You ask the court to order the landlord to make repairs in your apartment or building.

    3. 7A proceedings: One-third or more of the tenants in a building ask the court to take control of the building away from the landlord and give it to a court-supervised administrator.

Section 2A
Nonpayment Cases

A nonpayment case is brought by a landlord to collect unpaid rent. A tenant may be evicted for non-payment of rent.

Before you can be sued, the landlord or someone working for the landlord must demand the overdue rent from you and warn you that, if you do not pay, you can be evicted. You can be told this orally or in writing. If your lease requires that this kind of demand be given in writing, then it must be in writing. If it is in writing, the rent demand must be delivered to you at least three days before the day that the court papers are served, unless your lease requires more days. (For more information, see p. 7, Chapter 3, "How Legal Papers are Served")

If you do not pay the rent after the demand for rent is made, the landlord can file a nonpayment petition against you in Housing Court. The petition and notice of petition, usually the front and back of the same page, must be "served" on you. The Court Clerk will mail you a postcard after the landlord's petition is served telling you to promptly come to court. If you do not receive the papers but have reason to believe that a case has begun against you then you should go to your local Housing Court and check with the Clerkís office to find out the status of your case. Failure to respond to papers could result in a "default judgment" being entered against you, and your eviction. (For more information, see p. 7, Chapter 3, "How Legal Papers are Served")

When you receive the nonpayment petition, go to the Landlord-Tenant Clerk's Office in the Housing Court right away to answer the petition. You must do this within five days of receiving the papers from your landlord. If you are late, you still should go to the Landlord-Tenant Clerk's Office. You can simply tell the Landlord-Tenant Clerk your answer OR you can give the Clerk a written answer. If you need help in answering the petition, there are posters on the wall in every Landlord-Tenant Clerk's Office which will give you information on how to answer a nonpayment petition. The Clerk will have a list of possible reasons the tenantís have not paid their rent. (see below). You may also go to the "Resource Center" located in each Housing Court for information on how to answer and about what happens in a nonpayment case.

If you decide to answer in writing, a copy of your answer must first be "served" on the landlord by giving it or mailing it to the landlord's lawyer or to the landlord if there is no lawyer's name on the court papers. If your landlord has an attorney, all papers must be served upon the attorney and not the landlord. You should then bring a copy of the written answer with an affidavit swearing how you "served" the landlord to the Landlord- Tenant Clerk in your local Housing Court.

If you choose to answer orally, you must tell your answer to a Clerk in the Landlord- Tenant Clerk's Office in your local Housing Court. After you tell the Clerk your answer, the Clerk will give you a copy of that form. You should check to see that the Clerk has checked or written down all of the defenses you told the Clerk. A copy of your answer will also be sent to the landlord or the landlord's attorney, and the original will be kept in the court file for your case.

What to Say in Your Answer to a Nonpayment Petition:

Below is a list of possible defenses. You may have a defense that is not listed below. Failure to raise a defense in your answer at this time may prevent you from raising it later in your case.

    Service

  1. The Respondent did not receive a copy of the Petition and Notice of Petition.

  2. The Respondent received the Petition and Notice of Petition, but service was not correct as required by law.

    Parties

  3. The Respondent is indicated improperly, by the wrong name, or is not indicated on the Petition and Notice of Petition.

  4. The Petitioner is not the Landlord or Owner of the building.

    Rent

  5. The Respondent was not asked, either orally or in writing, to pay the rent before the Petitioner and Notice of Petition.

  6. The Respondent tried to pay the rent, but the Petitioner refused to accept it.

  7. The monthly rent being requested is not the legal rent of the amount on the current lease.

  8. The Petitioner owes money to the Respondent because of a rent overcharge.

  9. The rent, or a portion of the rent, has already been paid to the Petitioner.

    Apartment

  10. There are conditions in the apartment which need to be repaired and/or services which the Petitioner has not provided.

  11. The Respondent receives Public Assistance and there are Housing Code violations in the apartment or the building.

  12. The apartment is an illegal apartment.

You may also add counterclaims, if relevant, as part of your answer. A counterclaim is a claim that you may have against your landlord. In a counterclaim you are asking the landlord to pay you money.

Failure to raise a defense or claim in your answer at this time may prevent you from raising it later in your case.

You can also ask for a jury trial in your answer. If you want a jury trial, you must file a "jury demand" and pay the jury fee at the time that you file your answer. Be sure to read your lease, as most leases have a jury waiver clause. If you do not file the jury demand at the time that you file your answer, you may also ask the judge presiding over your case to allow you to file a jury demand at a later time. However, it will be up to the judge to grant or deny that request. If you cannot pay the jury fee because you do not have enough money, you can ask that the fee be waived. See the Landlord and Tenant Clerk for more information on this.

When you give the Clerk your answer, the Clerk will issue a date for you and the landlord to come to court. This is called your "court date." The Clerk will write or stamp the court date, time, and the courtroom (also referred to as "Part" with a letter of the alphabet after it) on your copy of the answer. The courtrooms or "Parts" are also called "Resolution Parts." The court date is usually a week after you give your answer to the Clerk. You must be in court on your court date and be on time. Failure to appear in court or to be present when the case is called could result in a "default judgment" against you. (See p. , Section 4B, "What to Do When Going to Court")

What to do if You Receive a Notice of Eviction:

If you do not answer the petition, whether or not you received it, or do not go to court on your court date, you can be evicted.

  1. If you receive a notice of eviction, go to the Landlord-Tenant Clerk's office right away and ask for an "Order to Show Cause." (See p. 16, Section 5B, "Order to Show Cause")

  2. Bring any papers or postcards you received from the court or from the landlord, as well as the notice of eviction with you. Tell the Clerk if the papers were not delivered to you or were not delivered properly. Also tell the clerk why you did not go to court on your court date or answer the notice of petition. (See p. 7, Chapter 3, "How Legal Papers are Served")

  3. If a Judge signs the Order to Show Cause with a "stay" of the eviction, this will stop the eviction at least until you can come back to court and tell a Judge what happened.

Section 2B
Holdover Cases

A holdover case is brought by a landlord to evict a tenant or the person in the apartment for reasons other than simple nonpayment of rent.

A holdover case is much more complicated than a nonpayment case. The information given below is very general and there can be a number of differences in individual cases. Therefore, the help of a lawyer is especially important in holdover cases.

The landlord is usually, but not always, required to give you a written "notice to cure." This notice will tell you how the landlord thinks you are breaking the lease or acting in a way that is not appropriate for a tenant. It gives you a chance to correct the problem before the landlord starts a holdover.

Before court papers are delivered to you, the landlord must, in almost all cases, also give you a written "notice of termination." If you have received a notice to cure, you will likely receive the notice of termination about 10 days later. This notice will give you details about the landlordís decision to terminate your tenancy. The notice must also tell you that you must be out of your apartment by a specific date or the landlord will take you to court to evict you. (Generally, this notice must be given to you in one of the ways described in Chapter 3, p. 7, "How Legal Papers Are Served")

If the landlord was not required to give you a notice to cure or a notice of termination, you may simply receive a notice which tells you that you must be out of your apartment by a specific date (usually 10 days after the notice is delivered to you). This notice, sometimes called a "Notice to Quit," explains why the landlord believes that you do not have any right to stay in the apartment Ė for example, that you are not a tenant. (Generally, this notice must be given to you in one of the ways described in Chapter 3, p. 7, "How Legal Papers Are Served")

After the date listed in the notice of termination or notice to quit by which the landlord has notified you that he or she wants you out of the apartment, you must be given court papers called a "holdover petition" and "notice of petition" to bring with you to the court. (These papers must be delivered to you in one of the ways described in Chapter 3, p. 7, "How Legal Papers Are Served")

The Court Clerk will mail you a postcard when the affidavit of service of the holdover notice of petition is filed. The postcard will have the date, time and courtroom (also referred to as "Part" with a letter of the alphabet after it) at which the holdover will be presented to the judge. The courtrooms or "Parts" are also called "Resolution Parts."

You must "Answer" the petition. An answer is your response and defense to the claims in the petition. You can answer the petition orally or in writing when you go to court on your court date or you can answer in writing before your court date.

What to Say in Your Answer to a Holdover Petition:

Below is a list of possible defenses. You may have a defense that is not listed here.

  1. What the landlord claims you did or did not do is not true, or is not as serious as the landlord claims it is.

  2. The notice to cure or notice of termination does not contain enough specific information to allow you to correct the problem or defend against the landlord's case.

  3. The notice to cure, notice of termination, notice to quit or holdover petition and notice of petition were not given to you properly. (See p. 7, Chapter 3, "How Legal Papers are Served")

  4. The landlord accepted rent from you after the date listed in the notice of termination and before you were served with the notice of petition and petition. This means that the landlord, by accepting your rent, may have renewed your tenancy and will have to restart the court case.

  5. The landlord is suing to "get even" because you recently complained to a government agency about your housing conditions or joined a tenants' association. This is called a "retaliatory eviction.

  6. The notice to cure or notice of termination was not signed by the landlord or an authorized agent.

  7. The petition does not set forth a cause of action.

  8. Even though you did not have a lease in your name, you now have a right to a lease in your name because you are a family member of, or had a close family-like relationship with, the prior tenant and lived with that tenant before he or she left the apartment. These are known as succession rights.

  9. The apartment you live in is an illegal apartment and is therefore not included in what is called a "multiple dwelling registration." (See Glossary: Multiple Dwelling Registration)

You can also ask for a jury trial in your answer. (You can learn more about requesting a jury trial on p. 4, Section 2A, "Nonpayment Cases")

The holdover petition will tell you the court address, the courtroom number (usually referred to as "Part" with a letter of the alphabet after it), and the date and time you are scheduled to appear in Housing Court, usually within two weeks of the date you received the court papers. You must be in court on your court date and be on time. Failure to appear in court or to be present when the case is called could result in a "default judgment" against you. (See p. 9, Section 4B, "What to Do When Going to Court")

Section 2C
Illegal Lockout Proceedings

In most situations, a landlord may not attempt to evict a tenant without first bringing the tenant to court and obtaining a judgment of possession and a warrant of eviction. If your landlord has changed your locks or turned off heat and/or electricity in an attempt to evict you, you may bring an Illegal Lockout Proceeding against your landlord in Housing Court.

Under New York State law, a tenant who has been put out or kept out of his or her apartment in an unlawful manner may be entitled to recover triple damages.

If your landlord locks you out, threatens to do so, or takes any action to put you out of your apartment, including turning off the water, electricity, or heat, you should also contact the local police as they may be able to assist you. In some instances the police may order the landlord to restore you to the apartment and/or let the landlord know that a proceeding in Housing Court must be started.

To start an illegal lockout proceeding come to the Landlord-Tenant Clerkís office and fill out a petition in support of an Order to Show Cause. (See p. 16, Section 5B, "Order to Show Cause") You will fill out an "affidavit" which states that you have been wrongfully put out of your apartment. It is helpful to bring documentation, such as, a lease, rent receipts, utility bills and mail addressed to you at the apartment. The clerk will witness your completed petition, assign a hearing date and submit the papers to a judge. If the judge signs your Order to Show Cause, you must pay a court fee to the cashier to obtain an index number. The fee must be paid by cash, certified check, money order or bank check. Personal checks will not be accepted. If you cannot afford to pay the fee you may apply to proceed as a poor person. You must serve your petition in the manner directed in the Order to Show Cause. You must return to court on the hearing date, which will generally be within one or two days, at the room and time indicated. Bring your copy of the papers, proof of service, and any other proof with you on the hearing date.

 

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