What is an HP action?
An HP action is a lawsuit that a tenant can file against you claiming that there are conditions in the apartment that violate legal housing standards. The lawsuit asks the court to order you to correct these violations by making repairs or by providing services. An HP action can be filed by one tenant or it can be filed by a group of tenants in the building. It can be filed to correct violations in the tenant’s apartment or in the public areas of the building.
Does the tenant have to notify me before starting an HP action?
The tenant is not required to notify you before filing an HP action. However, the court will assume that you have notice of any problems if the tenant sent you a letter of complaint. The tenant may have also called 311 to make a complaint to the department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), and if so you should receive notice of this complaint. However, the tenant does not have to complain to HPD first before starting an HP action.
How do I know that a tenant filed a case against me?
When the tenant files an HP action in Housing Court, he or she will be required to serve the papers on you. The tenant will be required to mail the court papers to you by certified mail, return receipt requested. The court papers will include the court date, time, and room number as well as a list of the conditions that the tenant claims needs to be corrected.
What are my defenses?
Some defenses in an HP action may include: the violations do not exist; you never received court papers or were not served properly; or you are not the owner or managing agent of the building.
How will the court know if there really are violations?
Usually, the court will send an inspector to the apartment before the court date to verify that the violations in the tenant’s complaint exist. The inspector will file a report confirming which violations, if any, exist. This report will be included in the case file, and you will get a copy of this on the court date.
If HPD had previously inspected the apartment before the HP action, the court might use the HPD violation records to determine whether there are violations. The tenant may also bring other evidence of violations, such as photos, heat logs, or other proof of the conditions in the apartment.
Can I fix the problem before the court date?
Yes, but you still need to go to court. Bring proof with you to show the judge that you have completed the repairs.
What if I don’t go to the court date?
If you don’t go to court on the date of the hearing, a default judgment may be entered against you ordering you to correct the reported violations. The order to correct will list the violations that must be corrected and include the deadlines to fix the violations. This should be served on you personally and by certified mail.
Can I do the repairs myself or do I have to hire someone?
Whether you can do the repairs yourself or not depends on what the violations are. Some violations, such as painting or plastering the walls, you can do by yourself. For other violations, for instance plumbing or electrical work, the city requires you use licensed contractors.
What will happen on my court date?
On the court date, be sure to arrive early so that you have time to go through the metal detectors. In the court room, you may see many people, including the judge, the court lawyer, the court officer, the tenant, and/or the tenant’s lawyer. There will also be a lawyer from HPD’s litigation unit. The court does not assign you your own lawyer, and you will have to advocate for yourself if you did not hire a lawyer.
At your court hearing, the Court or the HPD lawyer may urge you to sign a pre-printed consent order agreeing to fix the violations that the tenant is complaining about. The lawyer may also urge you negotiate an agreement, called a stipulation, with the tenant regarding fixing the violations. If you do not enter into a consent order or stipulation, the case will go to trial before the judge. At the trial, the Judge will hear both sides and look at the evidence presented. If the judge finds that there are violations, he or she will issue an order to correct these violations. Consent orders, stipulations, and orders to correct should list the violations that need to be corrected, the dates when you are to access the tenant’s apartment to correct the violations, and the deadlines by which to correct them.
What if my tenant is causing the violations in the apartment?
You are still required to correct the violations even if it was your tenant who caused the violations. However, you should tell the judge about the situation. You can sue your tenant in civil court for any damages that he or she caused.
How much time will I get to make the repairs?
The amount of time you will be allowed to correct the violations depends on how serious the violations are, and you should go by the deadlines on your consent order, stipulation, or order to correct.
Generally, for violations found to be “immediately hazardous” such as lead based paint or lack of heat, hot water, electricity, or gas, you must correct within 24 hours.
For “hazardous” violations, such as inadequate lighting in public areas, you must correct within 30 days.
For “non-hazardous” violations such minor leaks or chipping or peeling paint when no children under the age of six live in the home, you must correct within 90 days.
The time period by which you have to correct the violations starts from the date you receive the court order.
What if I cannot afford to make the repairs?
If you cannot afford to fix the violations, you may have a defense called “economic infeasibility,” where the court will consider your reasons related to the apartment that financially prevents you from fixing the violations. However, this defense is not available if you knowingly permitted or encouraged the deterioration of the apartment for financial gain. You may also be able to get a low interest loan from HPD to pay for repairs.
What help is available for landlords to make repairs?
HPD provides several types of low interest loans to home owners. These loans can be used to upgrade building systems like heating or electricity or to make repairs to an apartment. Contact HPD for more information about loans you may qualify for.
Will I have to pay a fine?
If you do not comply with the court order, the tenant can restore the case for compliance and the judge may order you to pay a fine. Before the judge orders you to pay a fine, he or she will first conduct a trial to determine whether or not you complied with the court order. You should receive notice to go this trial.
If the judge finds you did not comply with the court order, the judge may fine you in the following manner:
$250 per day for heat and hot water violations, between $50 to $150 per day for immediately hazardous violations, between $25 to $110 per day for hazardous violations, and between $10 to $50 per day for non-hazardous violations.
You will be required to pay this fine to HPD.
What if the tenant won’t let me or my worker in to make repairs?
If the tenant will not let you in to make repairs in the apartment, you can let the court know by filing an order to show cause to get another court date with the judge. You can discuss the problem with the judge’s court attorney to get more options. You also have the right to start a holdover proceeding against a tenant for not allowing access for repairs.
Alternatively, your tenant may have brought you back to court claiming that you did not make repairs and asking the court to find you in violation of its order or the stipulation. In this case, the judge will hold a trial regarding whether you violated the court order or stipulation, and you can raise that fact that your tenant did not allow you to make repairs as a defense.
How can I get advice from HPD?
HPD’s Neighborhood Preservation offices provide technical advice from code inspectors about how to correct violations. You can walk in one of the following HPD Neighborhood Preservation offi ce.
HPD Neighborhood Preservation office locations:
1932 Arthur Avenue, 3rd Floor, Room 300
Bronx, NY 10457
94 Old Broadway, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10027
210 Joralemon Street, 13th Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11201
701 Euclid Avenue, 1st Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11208
120-55 Queens Boulevard,
Queens Borough Hall, Ground Floor
Kew Gardens, NY 11424