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Urrgent but quick questions re: answering a nonpayment case!

NYC Housing Court Practice/Procedures

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Urrgent but quick questions re: answering a nonpayment case!

Postby imanygirl » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:55 pm

I have a huge, lengthy, insane crazy case and I am not going to go into the details because it would be a novel, but basically the landlord (who is not really the landlord since the old landlord is being sued and the building is in foreclosure) has decided to take me to court for rent I've already paid (I have copies of the cleared checks from my bank statements) and for unspecified random fees that make no sense.

I'm writing my answer and I know which defenses I am using (and I am also filing a counterclaim based on a significant leak and gaping hole in my ceiling that went unrepaired for over a year and had mold growth, blah, blah (yes, I filed complaints with the city and housing and anywhere else I could.) Here are my questions:

Do I have to file copies of my bank statements showing payment for rent was made, all the letters (w/ proof of mailing), photos, complaint paperwork from the city/housing authority/etc., and all that documentation WITH my answer or do I wait until the next step?

And

When I submit the Answer in Writing with Verification, does that mean I also submit a separate Affidavit of Service? Doesn't the court send the landlord the answer? Is sending it certified mail OK if I'm the sender or do I literally have to give it to a friend to mail and have them sign the Affidavit of Service?

Any feedback would be great since I have to go tomorrow morning to file my answer and have no time to go to the help center beforehand because of work.

Thanks!

Oh, rent stabilized apartment, if that makes a difference.

:help:
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Postby NYHawk » Mon Jul 12, 2010 4:44 pm

Do I have to file copies of my bank statements showing payment for rent was made, all the letters (w/ proof of mailing), photos, complaint paperwork from the city/housing authority/etc., and all that documentation WITH my answer or do I wait until the next step?



no proof with answer, proof is presented at trial

When I submit the Answer in Writing with Verification, does that mean I also submit a separate Affidavit of Service?


Yes (but maybe not needed see below)

Doesn't the court send the landlord the answer?


No

Is sending it certified mail OK if I'm the sender or do I literally have to give it to a friend to mail and have them sign the Affidavit of Service?


A litigant cannot serve papers by mail. However, an easy solution is for you to hand deliver a copy of your answer to the landlord's attorney's office and get them to acknowledge service by writing on the original answer "copy received" along with a signature and a date (law firms do this routinely). Then (after making a copy of the signed and dated "copy received" page for your records) file the original answer with the proof of personal service (no affidavit of service is needed when there is an acknowledgment of service).

Good luck
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Thanks!

Postby imanygirl » Mon Jul 12, 2010 4:51 pm

Thanks so much for your reply! I was working myself into a tizzy trying to get all the paperwork copied and organized and sorted.

Yeah, I'm a little nervous about going directly to the attorney's offices but I'll suck it up and go anyway. Thanks again!
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Postby NYHawk » Mon Jul 12, 2010 4:59 pm

anyone can make the delivery. It doesn't have to be you. But if it is you do not discuss the case with anyone. You are only there to serve papers, not talk about the case. You are not required to talk about the case. You are not even required to identify yourself. Just say "I'm here to serve these lawsuit papers. Here is a copy for you. Please acknowledge service by writing "copy received" and include your signature and today's date (usually on the front somewhere, anywhere). Thank you."

Take your original back after it is signed by someone and leave.
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Postby TenantNet » Mon Jul 12, 2010 5:04 pm

FYI, an answer is usually very short, maybe just a few pages, where you a) admit or deny the LL's allegations in his petition. You do not need to explain things in the answer ... just admit or deny. You can also add defenses, i.e., "rent already paid," or "incorrect rent" and counterclaims, where in effect you are suing the LL for some specific amount of money. Some things are both defenses and counterclaims, i.e., "no heat."

If you make a motion, you would prepare an affidavit in support of the motion and a memorandum of law where you can argue the facts with copies of exhibits.

Best way to learn this stuff for a non-attorney is to get copies of these documents and study them.

Or, you can just go to the Housing Court clerk, fill in the blanks and check off the boxes and they will serve the LL. That's the easy way. But Hawk is right ... all the proof comes at trial.

As an aside, it is sometimes OK to include some basic proof if it's a slam-dunk and just maybe the LL will back off once they see the proof you have. This can save litigation efforts. And sometimes you want the judge or his court attorney to see it as early as possible, so bring it with every court appearance. It's good to get the judge and court attorney on your side if you can easily show that the LL is being frivolous.
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Thanks again!

Postby imanygirl » Tue Jul 13, 2010 1:35 am

Thanks for the advice. I tend to get really anxious about little technical details. I prepared my answer using the court-supplied forms and initials the appropriate defenses, but I'm still a bit confused about getting the attorney signature. So they sign the original answer saying they received a copy (and I hand them the copy). Should I include a little area on the answer with the attorneys name and a line for signature and date and check box "copy received" to make it easy? Then after I've gotten their signature, given them their copy, I make my own copy for my own records and drop the original off at the clerk's, right?

Ugh. I absolutely despise the whole service confusion- not that any of the rest of it is enjoyable, but for some reason that is what gets me annoyed the most right now.

I'm starting to prepare the motion- or at least the exhibits and supporting documents- because I want to get that filed ASAP as I'm pretty sure they won't be expecting it. I've got a fairly decent handle on format and wording for various documents, but I guess I'm more worried about the judge getting annoyed if it's not done perfectly. I know they are not thrilled with pro-se litigants, but you would think they would reserve their bias or at least focus their anger on dirty landlords who bring frivolous suits against tenants.

And just out of curiosity, does anyone know why they list, in addition to my name as the respondent, they also list a "John Doe" and "Jane Doe"? I live alone in a studio and have since I signed the lease, on which I'm the sole tenant. They mailed me three copies of the notice of petition, but one was addressed to me, the the other two were addressed to Jane and John Doe. I find that really strange.
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Postby NYHawk » Tue Jul 13, 2010 2:49 am

Here is where to get some info about serving the answer.

http://www.nycourts.gov/courts/nyc/housing/answering.shtml#serving

So they sign the original answer saying they received a copy (and I hand them the copy). Should I include a little area on the answer with the attorneys name and a line for signature and date and check box "copy received" to make it easy? Then after I've gotten their signature, given them their copy,


Not exactly. You hand them a copy and the original at the same time. Then you ask them to acknowledge receiving the copy by writing "copy received" on the original and sign and date it. It is really simple.

Motion papers are served the same way the answer is served.

The LL sued you and John Doe and Jane Doe so that the LL can get a judgment of possession against you and anyone else who is in possession of the apartment. Nothing for you to worry about.
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Huh?

Postby imanygirl » Tue Jul 13, 2010 12:00 pm

I was just on my way out to the lawyers but I checked the link and it says that someone else besides me has to deliver the papers in person. Is it some kind of "loophole" getting them to sign they received a copy on the answer so that I don't have to file an affidavit of service or when I get to the clerk is it going to be rejected for not having done so?
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Postby TenantNet » Tue Jul 13, 2010 12:10 pm

I don't know why you are going through all this effort. As I said above, you can go to the Housing Court clerk's office and file a simple answer, and they will serve it on the LL. You do not need all the proof in the initial papers.

Lawyers that represent tenants often prepare their own answers, but they charge their clients for it. You need the information for a trial, and maybe to show the court attorney how the LL is making frivolous claims, but you do not need it for an answer. It will likely be ignored. The idea is to make the litigation go away, not get bogged down.
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The service of the answer

Postby imanygirl » Tue Jul 13, 2010 12:24 pm

I'm not talking about proof- I'm talking about the answer. It's one piece of paper with my defenses. My question has to do with the service. The court website says in filing my answer with the Housing Clerk's office I have to attach an affidavit of service saying the lawyers for the landlord were served with a copy of my answer but since I can't serve them myself, the question is how am I supposed to do it without going through a process server? In my first question, I asked if the court would serve the answer on the landlord and I was told no- I had to arrange for that- and include the affidavit of service with the answer (or get the landlord's lawyer to sign a copy of the answer saying they received it).
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Postby TenantNet » Tue Jul 13, 2010 12:36 pm

You would file an affidavit of service IF you served an answer (either by yourself or by a third party - which can be a friend who is not a party to the litigation, and does not have to be a process server).

But if you go to the clerk's office, fill in the papers, the court will do the actual service and you do not need to do any service.

You're mixing things up and making this much more difficult than it needs to be.

1. You can file your own answer (your document) and do your own service, or

2. You can have the clerk help you fill out the forms and they will do the service (on their forms, not your document).
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