Housing Part Actions
What is an HP action?
An HP action is a case that you file against your landlord when the landlord will not make repairs or provide services. You are asking the court to order the landlord to make repairs or provide services. An HP action can be filed by just you or it can be filed by a group of tenants in your building. It can be filed to correct violations in your apartment or in the public areas of your building.
What should I do before I file an HP action?
You should write a letter, sent by certified mail, to the landlord listing the repairs and services you need. You should also call 311 to make a complaint to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). However, you are not required to make a complaint to HPD before you file an HP action.
How do I file an HP action?
You can get the forms and instructions to start an HP action from the clerk in Housing Court. You need to write your landlord’s name and address on the forms. You may not use a PO Box, so you must have the address of the landlord’s office or home. Make sure that the person you are suing is the correct owner of the building.
One of the forms that you will fill out is an inspection request. You should list exactly what is wrong with the apartment and any public areas of the building. You should write only one violation per line. If you do not have enough room on the form to list all of the violations, you can continue on another one. After you have filled out all of the papers, take them back to the clerk. The clerk will send your papers to the judge who will read them and sign them. The judge will give you several copies of the forms. The judge will assign you a date for the inspection and a date to return to court.
What if I don’t know the landlord’s name and address?
You can find out by calling 311 and asking for HPD or going to HPD Online. If HPD does not have the correct name and address for the landlord you can use the Department of Finance’s ACRIS website to search property records (Staten Island is not on ACRIS; you need to contact the county clerk).
Do I have to give the papers to the landlord?
Yes, you have to serve the papers on the landlord and also on HPD. The judge or the clerk will explain to you how to serve the papers. Be sure to follow these instructions carefully and keep proof that you followed the instructions. Generally, you will have to send the papers by certified mail, return receipt requested and regular mail. The receipts will be your proof that the papers were mailed. If you do not serve the landlord the right way, the judge may dismiss the case and you will have to start over.
Do I have to pay to file a case?
There is a $45 fee to file the case. You will need to pay with cash, money order, or bank check. The court will not accept a personal check. If you cannot afford to pay the fee, you can fill out the fee waiver form, and the judge may not make you pay the fee.
How do I prepare for my court date?
The court will send an inspector to your apartment. Make sure you are in your apartment and are ready for the inspector on the day and time that you are assigned. The inspection report is the main evidence in your case against the landlord. When the inspector arrives, you can show him or her the problems in your apartment. You should not argue with the inspector if he or she does not mark things that you believe are violations. There are other ways to prove violations in court.
Gather evidence and documents that show that services have not been provided or that repairs have not been made. Some things you should bring include:
• a written record of building and/or apartment problems
• a list of dates and times you contacted the landlord or super to ask for the repairs
• copies of letters you have written to the landlord about problems
• photographs of the conditions in your apartment or building
• copy of HPD’s inspection report or failed Section 8 inspection report
• a heat log (a list of dates you do not have heat that includes the temperatures inside and outside)
• change to make copies
What will happen on my court date?
On your court date, be sure to arrive early so that you have time to go through the metal detectors and be in your court room on time. If you are late or if you miss your court date, the judge may dismiss the case and you will have to start over. In the court room, you may see many people, including the judge, the court lawyer, the landlord, the landlord’s lawyer, and the court offi cer. There may also be an lawyer from HPD’s Litigation Unit. The HPD lawyer is not your lawyer. The HPD lawyer represents the city.
If your landlord agrees to make the repairs:
The landlord may agree to make repairs and may agree to sign a preprinted consent order. This will usually happen if violations appeared on the inspection report. If the landlord refuses to sign a consent order, the judge or court lawyer may urge you to negotiate an agreement with your landlord. Once this agreement is written down, it is called a stipulation and should include all of the terms that you have agreed to. For example, the stipulation should include access dates when you will allow the landlord to come to the apartment and dates when each repair should be finished. If an agreement is reached, all parties involved in the case will sign the stipulation.
Your stipulation or the judge’s order should include a list of the repairs that are needed and when they should be completed. It is a good idea to add a list of dates and times that you will be available to allow the landlord access to your apartment to make the repairs. This may help to avoid problems later if the landlord claims you did not allow access to do the work.
The judge will review the stipulation. If he or she approves it, he or she will sign it, and distribute copies. You should keep your copy of the stipulation so that you can return to court if the landlord does not keep to the terms.
If your landlord refuses to make the repairs or does not up in court:
If your landlord refuses to sign an order or does not show up in court, the judge can still order that violations be corrected (repairs made or services restored.) If the landlord is in court, but refuses to sign a consent order or a stipulation, you can ask the judge for a trial. If a trial is scheduled, you will have to prove your case. You will have to show that the landlord was properly served and that the conditions that you are complaining about exist.
What is the role of the HPD Lawyer?
The HPD lawyer is there to represent the city to enforce apartment and building standards. The HPD lawyer may be assigned to your case and may ask to speak with you. Tell the HPD lawyer about the conditions in your apartment or building and show your evidence. The HPD lawyer may help you get a copy of the inspection report and may also be helpful in writing a stipulation.
Make sure you get the name and telephone number of the HPD lawyer before you leave the court. It will be important to follow up with the HPD lawyer, especially if the landlord does not make the repairs.
Remember that the HPD lawyer is not there to represent you.
What if the landlord still doesn’t make the repairs?
If the landlord begins to make repairs, keep track of when they are completed and what work hasn’t been done. Be sure someone is in your apartment on the access dates to let the landlord or workers in.
If the landlord asks you to provide access to your apartment for repairs and then does not show up, keep a record of these dates and any attempts you may make to reschedule.
If the landlord does not finish the repairs by the deadline, you will need to go back to court to reopen the case. You can file an order to show cause for contempt of court for the landlord’s failure to comply. This means the landlord can be fined or even possibly jailed. Any fines the landlord must pay will go to the city.
Contempt filings can be complicated for a tenant without a lawyer. Be prepared for a tough fight.
Landlords are rarely put in jail. Several factors may help strengthen your case:
a) keep good records,
b) stay in close contact with the HPD lawyer and HPD inspectors, and
c) organize other tenants in the building to take action as a group.
What is a group HP action?
A group HP action means that several tenants in your building are filing one case against the landlord together. The case will address each individual apartment as well as the public areas in the building.
There are advantages to filing an HP action as a group and the landlord and the judge will take the case more seriously if there are many people from your building making a complaint. There are community groups that can help you bring a group action. You can find a list of community organizations on our website.
What if the landlord has been harassing me?
There is a different type of HP action that specifically addresses harassment. The HP action for harassment can also address repair issues. HP actions for harassment only cover certain types of harassment.