Posted by Anna on February 29, 2000 at 01:09:12:
In Reply to: Re: Mishandled Security Deposit vs. Demand for Rent posted by Sheila on February 27, 2000 at 12:31:34:
: Thank you Kerry and Fred, for your down-to-earth advice. And thank you Richard, for your apology. I read the sections on Tenant Net about the Guide to Housing Court and a non-payment dispossess. However, one thing that is not clear to me--can a tenant request a hearing solely on the inability to pay at this time? Is that considered enough of a reason for a hearing? And does the court usually ask you to try a mediation for a stipulation before going to trial? I would appreciate your help at this time once more. Thank you again!
Trial? 90-97% of these cases are settled. The Landlords use Housing Court instead of collection agencies. 300,000 cases a year in NYC, mostly 'no-defense non-payment' like yours.
The procedures at Housing Court have changed a little since that book was written. What happens now is: the tenant has five calendar days (including weekends and other days the court is closed) to file an answer, either written or orally. Most tenants have no chance to get an attorney in that time, so it is oral. The clerk records the answer (or part of it...) and gets a court date from the computer. The tenant goes to a Resolution Part on that date: the goal there is to settle the suit, not go to trial. The LL's atty will try to write a this stipulation (stip) in the hall before the tenant gets a chance to speak to the Judge or the Court Attorney. Try to avoid that.
You have what is called a 'no-defense non-payment': try to avoid letting them know that. First, when you give your answer, if the clerk asks you 'why didn't you pay your rent?' (s/he is not supposed to ask that at all): don't answer that question. Give him/her your defenses and/or counterclaims instead. Don't think you have any? One counterclaim is the interest on your security deposit: research your records, do a spreadsheet, be ready. Defenses: I have never seen a long-term stabilized or controlled apt that was properly maintained (but don't manufacture things). A very important defense is improper service of the Rent Demand or of the Petition: does your lease require a 3-day or a 5-day (or longer?) demand? If 5-day, you can ask for the case to be dismissed: this buys you time as he'll have to start over. You won't knnow about the Petition until you get it. Some LL's deliberately don't serve the Petition, claim they do, and win on default. Check the court's computer weekly until you get that Petition.
If you can, go to Housing Court now: from about 9:30am-12:00pm, on the first floor, there are tables with updated pamphlets for CTWF (or is it CRTC?): get them, read them. You should also ask about 'one shot deal': some of these programs are restricted to people already on gov assistance, at least one is not: they pay your back rent.
For more of what to expect, go to these earlier posts about service and answers:
LL's do read this forum, or at least, I know for sure one ugly LL lawyer firm that does. Start a new thread 3/1: do not use your real name or your real email; and change your apt stats if you give them.
Read your lease very carefully: it may or may not contain aa 'legal fees' clause; even if it sounds like it does to you, some of the 20-yr old leases actually prevent the LL from getting fees. If you settle or pay in full in Resolution Part, you will not owe legal fees: only a Judge can order them, don't agree to a stip with them!
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