What is a stipulation?
A stipulation (stip) is a written agreement between the two parties in a Housing Court case. Once signed by the judge, it has the power of a court order or judgment. If you choose to negotiate a settlement with the landlord, that agreement will be written up and called a stipulation of settlement. Most cases in Housing Court are settled by stipulation and once signed by the parties and the judge, the terms are binding. They can only be redone by asking the judge, by doing an order to show cause, to vacate or codify the terms.
Alert: Recent decisions from the state’s higher courts (called “Chelsea” cases) have made it harder for some tenants to get more time once they fail to pay the rent owed by the due date. Doing a good stipulation is very important if you need to request more time later.
How should I prepare for court?
Before going to court, you should know exactly what rent the landlord claims is owed, or any other issues that need to be negotiated. If the rent is wrong, or you paid some of the rent, be sure to take proof to court. If you will be agreeing to pay the back rent in installments, make sure you know how much money you will have and when you will have it. If you are missing important documents (canceled checks, a print-out from social services, section 8 documents) ask for the case to be adjourned so that you can get them.
What can I include in a stipulation?
Everything that you agree to can be included. Anything said verbally in court but not written down cannot be enforced. In a nonpayment case, the stipulation will include the amount that you agree you owe. It will usually have the date by which the back rent must be paid. It can also have a requirement that the landlord make repairs or do something else that you asked for.
Who writes a stipulation?
You, your landlord, your landlord’s lawyer, the court lawyer, or the judge can write a stipulation. The court provides forms for stips with blank lined sheets attached to carbon copies. Some landlord lawyers use pre-printed stipulation forms that have terms that are bad for tenants, you can cross out parts that you don’t agree to. You do not have to use these pre-printed forms. You have the right to negotiate every word in the stipulation. If you have trouble, talk to the court lawyer.
What should be in my stipulation?
If you are in a nonpayment case and you owe back rent, the stipulation wording is very important.
Here are some things to avoid, if possible:
• Consenting to a judgment: If you consent to a judgment, you will have to do an order to show cause if You need more time to pay. In most nonpayment cases, landlords require that tenants consent to a Judgment in exchange for getting more time to pay back rent or to avoid trial. A judgment may appear On your credit report.
•Consenting to the immediate issuance of the warrant: This means the marshal can come right away if you don’t pay on time.
• Agreeing to have your payments applied to current rent first: Anything you pay towards arrears will be put towards the current month’s rent first and it will look like you haven’t paid the arrears.
• Agreeing to pay the late or legal fees: You only have to pay fees if the judge orders you to.
Here are Some items to include, if possible:
• A clear explanation of how much money has to be paid and when it has to be paid and how it has to be paid (will it be mailed, mailed by certified mail, or hand delivered).
• Language that allows you to come back to court by order to show cause if you need more time to get the money. This is important if you are relying on a third party to produce money (if you are applying for a one shot deal or money from charities) or if you are waiting for unemployment payments or Payments to start for social security.
• Language that allows for the judgment to be vacated when the money is paid; or that the landlord consents to an expungement of the case from tenant screening records.
• Language that requires the landlord to make repairs, especially if there are recorded violations for your apartment. If there are not violations, try to get a list of conditions and access dates for the Landlord to repair them.
• For permission to get more time if the case is a holdover and you have agreed to move out by a certain date.
• For detailed access dates and times in an HP action.
Should I sign a stipulation?
Read it carefully and ask the judge or court lawyer about items you don’t understand or don’t agree to before you sign. A stipulation is a binding agreement, and it cannot be easily changed.
What happens after I agree to sign a stipulation?
After the stipulation is written, the stipulation goes to the judge for his or her approval. Both sides will be called in front of the judge who will review the stipulation to make sure that both understand it. This is called an allocution and is required by law. If, at this point, you realize that you signed something you Do not agree to, tell the judge and ask that if it can be redone before he or she signs it.
Once it is signed by the judge, be sure to take your copy of the stipulation.
What if I did not comply with the stipulation or if my landlord failed to comply?
If your stipulation in a nonpayment case includes a judgment of possession for the landlord and immediate issuance of the warrant of eviction, you will need to do an order to show cause to go back before the judge to ask for more time. Go to court right away if you received a marshal’s notice. If you defaulted on a stipulation that does not contain a judgment of possession, your landlord must go back to court to ask the judge for a judgment of possession. If you must do an order to show cause, you will Need to give a good reason why you couldn’t comply with the stipulation. Be specific about your reason, Including when and where you applied for help. If your landlord did not comply with the stipulation, you can file an OSC asking the court to find your landlord in contempt of court.
Below are some terms commonly used in a stipulation:
tenant to vacate: the tenant will move out.
petitioner(s):the person or company that started the case.
respondent(s): the person or company being sued. In a nonpayment or holdover, this is the tenant. In an HP action, this is the landlord.
motion: this is a request to the judge to do something in the case.
waive: this means you are giving up some right. Be sure you know what rights you are giving up before you agree to waive any rights.
order to show cause: a type of motion asking the court to give you a hearing for some reason. For example, you may file an OSC to ask the court to give you more time if you cannot pay according to the stipulation.
upon default: what will happen if either side does not do what was agreed to in the stipulation. For example, the stipulation may say that the warrant of eviction will be executed upon the tenant’s default in making the agreed upon payments.
eviction notice or marshal’s notice: this is the official notice that the marshal is required to give you before evicting you. If this is handed to you by the marshal, the earliest you can be evicted by the marshal is four business days from the date of your receipt. If the marshal sent the notice by mail, you have six business days from the date of mailing until the marshal can evict you. You must file an OSC to stop the eviction once you receive this notice.
warrant of eviction: this is a special order from the court that allows the marshal to remove a tenant from the apartment. The warrant is typically issued after the court awards a possessory judgment for the landlord. Execution of the warrant is when the marshal actually removes you from the apartment, changes the lock on the door and gives the landlord control over the apartment. If the execution is stayed you cannot be evicted until the date after the stay or if the conditions of the stay are not met.
judgment: a judgment is a decision of the court. A monetary judgment means that you owe a certain amount and that it can be collected from you if you don’t pay. A possessory judgment or judgment for possession means that the court is awarding the residence to the landlord. A judgment can be consented to in a stipulation when the parties agree, and you should be careful about signing a stipulation that includes one since the landlord might be able to evict you if you fail to pay by the deadline.