Decoding Key Cases In New York Housing Court
The Three Primary Types Of Cases In New York Housing Court
In my attempt to break down the complicated world of New York housing law, I’m going to start with the basics: case types. There are three primary types of cases handled in New York housing court, each with its own unique dynamics and processes.
A nonpayment case is when a landlord initiates legal action against a tenant for overdue rent. The process involves the landlord serving the tenant a written demand. These cases can ultimately lead to a court appearance. Should the tenant settle the back rent within a stipulated time frame, the case is dismissed. However, failure to make payments may result in eviction in worst-case scenarios.
The second type, holdover cases, occur when a landlord seeks to terminate a tenant’s lease. Serving a termination notice is how a landlord can initiate these cases. They progress to a holdover proceeding after the notice period expires. The objective here is to reclaim the property regardless of rent status. The tenant is granted a specific duration to vacate, influenced by factors such as outstanding rent, ability to pay future rent, and the judge’s discretion.
- Housing Part (HP) Actions
The third case type, an HP action, is when a tenant sues their landlord for repairs or violations. This process begins with the tenant submitting a notice to the court. An inspector then evaluates the apartment for violations. If any infractions are identified in their evaluation, the judge mandates the landlord to make the necessary repairs to rectify the violations the premise has incurred.
Rights And Responsibilities
Whether a landlord or tenant, understanding your rights and responsibilities in the context of New York housing law is key not only for a harmonious landlord-tenant relationship but to ensure you come out of your case as successfully as possible when that harmony can’t be facilitated and legal escalation is the only way forward.
Tenants, your end of the bargain is straightforward and fairly simple – pay your rent. Beyond this, maintain a living environment that doesn’t disturb or become an excessive nuisance to your neighbors. The mutual understanding that serves as the basis of this helps foster a peaceful coexistence within the community. Don’t erode your community’s amicability with inconsiderate disruption!
On the other hand, landlords must ensure their tenants’ well-being. Most important among them is providing an apartment that does not have any violations and hazards, that is, a safe and habitable living space. Depending on the nature of the apartment, landlords may also be required to furnish utilities such as heat and electricity. Similar to how tenants must not excessively disturb neighbors, landlords must not harass tenants, maintaining a respectful and lawful approach in their interactions.
In cases where the apartment falls under rent-stabilized or rent-controlled regulations, landlords must adhere to prescribed rent guidelines, ensuring that the rent they charge complies with the relevant legal standards. As such, they are obligated to follow the laws governing rent stabilization, including offering lease renewals as stipulated.
Causes Of Housing Court Disputes in New York
Over the course of my time working in the New York housing sector, I’ve observed several recurring issues that often end up escalating to housing court. Here are a couple of the most common.
- Rent Disputes
The most prevalent issue bringing landlords and tenants to housing court revolves around rent, with many cases involving varying degrees of back rent owed. Tenants, for various reasons often related to unstable income, may find themselves behind on payments. This puts landlords in a peculiar situation – to pursue nonpayment proceedings and provide tenants an opportunity to pay what they owe and retain their residence or to terminate the tenancy, proceed with a holdover case, and seek a fresh start with new occupants.
- Nuisance Issues
Another cause of disputes that lead to litigation surrounds nuisance. Tenants may unknowingly or unintentionally create disturbances within the premises either by:
- Harassing other tenants;
- Maintaining an unsanitary apartment;
- Engaging in criminal activities.
Determining whether a tenant’s actions qualify as a nuisance is a nuanced process left to the discretion of the judge and the standards set by housing court laws.
- Reclamation & Eviction Without Cause
There might be instances where they seek to reclaim an apartment for personal use or for a family member. Even if the tenant is deemed reliable, landlords may opt to recover the apartment for personal reasons. In cases where there’s no lease and the apartment isn’t rent-regulated, landlords can evict tenants without cause, especially in month-to-month tenancies where a termination notice suffices.
- Living Conditions
For tenants, the primary concern often centers on the conditions of their living space. They may raise complaints about bad conditions, citing violations they have notified the landlord about that have yet to be addressed. When these issues persist without resolution, tenants can and do turn to housing courts seeking remedies.
Steps To Take Before Going To Housing Court
Taking a case to housing court in New York entails a series of well-defined steps for both landlords and tenants. Notably shaped by the 2019 Tenant Protection Act, these guidelines have undergone considerable adjustments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
How a landlord can best approach their case depends on what type of case it is they face. The processes are relatively similar, but there are slightly different steps for nonpayment and holdover cases respectively.
- For nonpayment cases, landlords should initiate the process by serving a written demand for rent on the tenant. Prior to recent modifications to the law, oral demands were acceptable. This is no longer the case.
As a landlord, you must also send a certified letter to the tenant each month, officially notifying them of their overdue rent payment. Once these conditions are met and the rent demand expires, you can then serve the tenant with a petition and a notice of petition. In it, you will set a deadline by which they need to respond to the petition. If the tenant answers, a court date will then be scheduled.
- For holdover cases, you must first serve a notice of termination on the tenant, whether using a 30, 60, or 90-day notice period. Which is best depends on the duration of the tenant’s occupancy. This, too, has been extended from the previous standard of 30 days under the 2019 Tenant Protection Act New York passed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After the termination notice period concludes, you can then serve the tenant with a holdover petition accompanied by a notice of petition, which will include a designated court date both parties will attend.
Situations where tenants pursue HP actions are a bit more straightforward, simply requiring the tenant to visit the court clerk’s office for the most part. Here, assistance will be provided in completing the necessary paperwork, specifically an HP petition enumerating violations. After you do, you can serve your landlord with the petition and an order to show cause, which will have a court date. Prior to this court date, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) will have an inspector evaluate the premises for violations and document any findings.
This roadmap serves as a foundational guide for landlords and tenants navigating New York housing court, offering clarity amid the many complexities you’ll likely face along the way.