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Re: Housing Court questions: NYC

Posted by Dayann on August 09, 2001 at 17:12:31:

In Reply to: Housing Court questions: NYC posted by Rosa on August 09, 2001 at 00:02:07:

You should have found out what your rights were before you got hauled into court. But you can't change it now, you are going to trial.

You can stop the proceeding by paying the full amount owed to your landlord, but if you do this, do it by certified or bank teller's check and mail it certified mail, return receipt. You can deposit the full amount owed in court prior to your next court date. You can agree to pay what you owe to the landlord and set up a plan to pay in installments with the landlord's lawyer, if you want, but I would recommend that you not do this unless you have a lawyer (a judge or the "court attorney", the attorney who assists the judge) there to witness everything, explain your rights and answer your questions.

If you decide to pay the whole amount you owe on your own prior to your next court date, do it by certified check, mail it directly to your landlord by certified mail, make copies of everything, and bring the copies of your payment and the certified mail receipt to the Courthouse and show it to the clerk of the Housing Court and tell the clerk you paid and you want the nonpayment trial to be cancelled. He'll give you the forms to fill out and explain what to do next.

You can also request an "adjournment", that is, you can ask the judge to postpone your next court date. Whether you will be GRANTED the adjournment is another story, but you can try asking for this and this can get you more time to build up your defense that rent was not paid due to landlord's refusal to make repairs, to come up with rent money, or to get a lawyer. You can go to the courthouse and tell the Clerk of the Housing Court that you want to adjourn the trial date until the inspector has had a chance to verify the need for repairs in your apartment and because you are trying to get a lawyer to represnet you. When you call to request an inspection, they are supposed to give you an inspection date that comes before the court date. Explain to them that the case is going to trial on such and such date and that you need the inspector to come before then. They may ask for the names of the people involved in the case, the judges's name, and the index number. If you don't already have this information, you can get it from the Clerk of the housing court. You can also go directly to the Housing Inspectors' Office with your court papers and your printouts about violations and show them to the inspector and ask for an inspection in person, there should be an office for the housing inspectors in the Housing Part of the civil court.

Be sure you or someone else is home on that date from 9 to 5:30 to let the inspector in.

You can also ask for an "adjournment" on the basis that you are seeking a lawyer. If you collect disability, social security, unemployment, public assistance, or if you work but still make less than a certain amount of money, you can get free legal representation from the Legal Aid Society. They have an office at the courthouse, it is not the same as the Pro Se attorney's office, it is a completely different office. Pro Se attorneys can't give legal advice or represent you in Court, but Legal Aid Society lawyers can.

Go back to the Courthouse before (MANY DAYS BEFORE) your next court date and ask one of the Court Officers where the Legal Aid office is, then go in and speak with someone about how to get legal representation. Bring ID and proof of income and any court papers you received and tell the lawyer everything you told this website.

You can also try contacting New York Lawyers for the Public Interest to see if you qualify for free ("pro bono") legal representation. You can also call Urban Justice. All of these places are listed in the phone book or you can call directory assistance (if you call directory assistance from a payphone you save a dollar.)

As for the lawyer who was rude and verbally abused you, there is little you can do about it. If it was really bad abuse, like he threatened you or cursed you out, or threatened to do something he as a lawyer should know he can't legally do, then you can make a complaint against him to the police and to the local bar association. You go to the police station closest to the courthouse and say you want to make a complaint of harassment and show ID and they will take down all the information and put it in a police report. BE sure to get a receipt with the date, time of your complaint, the name of the police officer who took your complaint, and the complaint number. Also ask for the forms to fill out so you can get a copy of your complaint. Once you make the complaint, call the Bar association and tell them you want to make a complaint about a lawyer. Ask where to send a written complaint. Write a letter to the bar telling them exactly what was said and done to you and giving them the police complaint number and send it out certified mail, save a copy for yourself with the certified mail receipt and the police complaint receipt in a safe place. The police won't do anything about this lawyer, the Bar association will only do something about it if enough people who deal with this lawyer call in to complain, if the Bar gets a whole slew of complaints they will investigate and possibly give the lawyer a slap on the wrist or something. You can also tell the judge exactly how you were abused, what exactly the lawyer said to you that you consider to be abuse, and see what the judge does about it. (probably nothing, unless he said something really screwed up and you have witnesses to back you up on it).

Your best bet if you don't have the money to pay your landlord what you owe him is to get that adjournment and get a lawyer from Legal Aid or some other place and see what they can do to help you out. It sounds like the eviction is retaliatory, you could say that, but unfortunately that is not a good rebuttal to use if the landlord is evicting you for nonpayment and there is proof that you didn't pay.

I AM NOT A LAWYER, I just happen to have some experience with this stuff and I've been doing lots of reading on the subject of eviction and tenant's rights. So don't take everything I say as the gospel truth. I hope some of what I said helps you out. I'm sorry you had such a bad day in court.

Good luck to you.

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