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representing myself in housing court?

NYC Housing Court Practice/Procedures

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representing myself in housing court?

Postby Brooklyn Blues » Mon Jun 14, 2010 10:19 am

My landlord tried to evict me a few months back. I retained a lawyer, we put in a motion to dismiss, and the case was “withdrawn with prejudice.” My landlord signed an agreement in court saying he would offer me a new, legal lease under the law.

Well, my landlord keeps giving me leases to sign that are not legal and keeps demanding back rent which he is not entitled to. Now he says he is taking me to court again to evict me.

I spoke to a lawyer about this and was told that, at this point, the case is fairly simple and that I could represent myself in court so that I do not have to keep paying a lawyer. I asked him if this was safe and he said to me that I am a pretty smart guy and would be okay representing myself in court at this point.

1. Is it okay to represent myself in court, and
2. Where can I learn the basics about representing myself in NYC Housing/Civil court?
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Postby TenantNet » Mon Jun 14, 2010 11:00 am

In Housing Court nothing is 100% certain, but your (former) lawyer might have a point. The new case should get dismissed as the old one was dismissed with prejudice. That means he can't come back to you for the same months' rent. New months might be different, but the old decision would help.

Assuming you can show why the newly offered leases aren't legal you might consider going ahead. See if you lawyer will at least guide you through the process. A few 5-minute phone calls to the lawyer can probably point you in the right direction.
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Postby Brooklyn Blues » Mon Jun 14, 2010 11:30 am

Thank you for responding. It all seems so crazy. My landlord keeps giving me backdated leases (Example - he will hand me a lease at the end of May that is dated March 1). This has been going on for months. He simply refuses to follow the law. And every month that goes by where he refuses to give me a legal lease, he thinks he can collect a rent increase for a lease that does not exist.

He does not seem to understand that for a rent increase to take effect, he actually has to give me a legal lease with the appropriate amount of time to sign.

He seems to be court happy, so my guess is that he will just keep taking me to court because he is too stubborn to follow the law. Most tenants, or many tenants, would probably just hand him the cash he is asking for to make him go away. But it feels like a shake down and I won't pay it.

He doesn't seem to have legal representation, so he seems to be doing this all on his own (I think he pays one of those lawyers who basically appear in court with the client but are not on retainer). So it puts me on the spot to either keep paying a lawyer or to start showing up to court without a lawyer.

I am curious how many times he can take me to court until the courts get tired of it.
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Postby TenantNet » Mon Jun 14, 2010 12:17 pm

His papers (served on you) should indicate if he's represented by an attorney.

The problem with housing court (and DHCR) is that you have too many bad judges that hate tenants. Without a lawyer, they can treat you like dirt. A good lawyer will know what the judge can do (or not do).
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Postby Brooklyn Blues » Mon Jun 14, 2010 12:57 pm

Thanks for your response!

The papers from my landlord are not written by a lawyer. In fact, my landlord has come to me and asked me to explain why he lost the case (He says, "I don't understand why I lost" and asked me to give him legal advise for writing a lease).

My landlord seems to be under the impression that when he takes me to court and loses, my lawyer and I should be teaching him about the law after he looses.

My landlord has come by numerous times asking for legal advice and I keep telling him, "Get a lawyer to give you legal advice."

A very frustrating situation.

I would hope that the judge would be upset with my landlord for taking me to court again after he signed an agreement in a court of law to offer me a legal lease.

It is a shame to hear that some judges hate tenants.
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Postby Cranky Tenant » Mon Jun 14, 2010 1:19 pm

Brooklyn Blues wrote:My landlord seems to be under the impression that when he takes me to court and loses, my lawyer and I should be teaching him about the law after he looses.


Did your lawyer ask the court to award you legal fees? That might help your landlord learn a little faster.
I'm a cranky tenant NOT a cranky lawyer.
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Postby Brooklyn Blues » Mon Jun 14, 2010 2:01 pm

Great question. I don't think legal fees were allowed the first time because of the way my lease was written. But I think my landlord is now moving into the area of frivolous legal action which may be different. If I do end up bringing a lawyer to court, I will ask about legal fees for sure!
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