Court Process

Why do I need to go to Housing Court?
If you are unable to resolve a dispute with your tenant, you may need to start a case in Housing Court. Landlords can bring two types of cases in Housing Court. A nonpayment case can be brought against a tenant who has not paid rent. If the tenant does not pay the amount of rent owed, you may be able to evict the tenant through a case in Housing Court. A holdover case can be brought against a tenant you wish to evict from the apartment for some reason other than owing rent. Tenants can bring cases against their roommates or subtenants in Housing Court as well. It is illegal in New York to force out a tenant who has been in an apartment for 30 days or more, or who has a lease, or who has paid rent, without going to Housing Court. Tenants can bring two types of cases against landlords in Housing Court. HP Actions are cases that tenants file to force landlords to make repairs or provide services. Illegal lockout cases are brought by tenants who claim their landlord, or an employee of the landlord, locked them out illegally (without going to court).

How do I start an eviction case?
Most eviction cases require that you first give the tenant or occupant a notice either asking for the rent or warning of an upcoming eviction case in court. In a nonpayment case, you must first “demand” the rent. In a holdover case, the notice depends on the type of tenancy or occupancy and on the type of eviction you will be doing. For example, a 30 day notice of termination is required before you can start a holdover case to evict a month-to-month tenant (a tenant without a written lease). And a ten day notice to quit is required before you can start an eviction case against a squatter (an occupant who never had permission to be in the apartment) or a licensee (someone who has permission either from the owner or another tenant to be in the apartment but who didn’t pay rent or have a lease). If the apartment is covered by rent regulations or subsidy agreements, the notice requirements can be complicated. Consult a lawyer if possible. If you have a lawyer representing you, the lawyer can handle most of the filing tasks and appear in court for you. Note: If your building is owned by a corporation, you must have a lawyer to represent you in court.

What is the difference between a nonpayment case and a holdover case?
In a nonpayment case, you are suing the tenant for rent that you claim was not paid. You are asking the court to order the tenant to pay, or if the tenant doesn’t pay, allow you to evict the tenant from the apartment.
In a holdover case, you are asking the court to allow you to remove the tenant or occupant from the apartment for some reason other than nonpayment of rent. You can use this type of eviction case against a tenant whose lease has expired, or against a tenant without a lease who rents on a month to month basis. You can also use a holdover case against a tenant who has a lease but is violating the terms of the lease, or who is creating a nuisance or who is conducting illegal activity in the apartment or building. You can use the holdover proceeding to evict a roommate, or a squatter (someone without permission to be in the building or apartment), or a licensee (someone who had permission to stay by the owner or another tenant, but who had no lease or from whom you never accepted rent).

How do I file my case in court?

You can visit the Housing Court’s Help Center and speak to one of the court lawyers about the proceeding you would like to start. The court provides owners with a free booklet of instructions. You will need to purchase the legal forms used in the case. To start a nonpayment case, you will need to complete the forms, purchase an index number from the court, serve the tenant and file the papers with the court clerk. You will get a postcard informing you of the date for your first hearing. In a holdover, you will need to complete the papers, file them with the clerk and purchase an index number, and then serve the tenant. You will choose a date for the first hearing when you file the papers.

The Housing Court offers a Do It Yourself (DIY) computer program in the courts and on the court website that helps prepare papers for nonpayment cases and roommate holdovers.

What will happen on my first court date?

Be sure to get to court on time. You will need to pass through a security gate which can have long lines, especially in the mornings. Cases are first assigned to a resolution part. The court encourages both sides to resolve the case by coming to a settlement agreement that is written up in a stipulation. You can tell the clerk in the courtroom that you are there and that you do not have a lawyer. Most cases in Housing Court are resolved by settlement agreements – voluntary agreements worked out by the two parties. If you and the tenant do not have lawyers, you can ask for help from the judge’s court lawyer. That lawyer can help by arranging a settlement conference where you, the tenant and the court lawyer talk about how to resolve the case.

What happens if my tenant doesn’t come to court?
In a nonpayment case, if the tenant did not answer the petition, the court will not schedule a hearing. You can request a default judgment 10 days after you serve the petition from the clerk in Housing Court (see below). If the tenant answered the petition, but does not appear on the hearing date, you can ask the judge for a default judgment. In a holdover case, if the tenant or respondent does not appear in court, the judge will hold an inquest.

You will have to show that you served the tenant properly and you will need to provide a non-military affidavit (see below).

What happens if I settle the case with a stipulation?
If you and the tenant, or occupant, work out an agreement to settle the case, the agreement will be written up as a stipulation. Before signing the agreement, make sure that you read it carefully and understand it. A stipulation is a binding agreement, like a contract, and cannot be easily changed. The judge or the judge’s court lawyer will answer questions you have about the stipulation. The judge should explain the stipulation to you and ask if you have questions before signing it – this is called an allocution. Once the judge signs the stipulation you and the tenant will each get a copy.
If the tenant does not comply with the agreement, or stipulation, you will need to ask the court for a judgment and a warrant in order to carry out the eviction. Once you have a judgment and warrant, you must hire a marshal who will request the warrant and perform (or execute) the actual eviction.

What happens if I can’t make an agreement with the tenant or occupant?
If you cannot reach an agreement, you can ask the judge or the judges’ court lawyer to help you reach an agreement. If you still cannot get an agreement, the judge will transfer your case to a trial part – a different court room where trials are held. The trial might be the same day, or it might be scheduled for a later date.

What documents will I need in court?
The papers you used to start the case, including proof of service

The original or a copy of the deed

The lease, if there is one, even if it is expired

A certified copy of the multiple dwelling registration, if the building has 3 or more apartments

If the apartment is rent stabilized, you will need a certified copy of the current registration with Homes and Community Renewal (DHCR).

Record keeping books or printouts (in a nonpayment to show rent owed)

Any other documents that will prove your case

Witnesses
A non-military affidavit is required when you apply for a default judgment. The affidavit is a sworn statement you must complete showing that you investigated and found that the respondent is not in the military, nor dependant on someone serving in the military.