Housing Court

A tenant can bring a case against a property owner in Housing Court to force them to make repairs and provide essential services, like heat and hot water. This case is called an “HP action.” Tenants can also initiate claims of harassment in Housing Court. Harassment is legally defined as “any act or omission by or on behalf of an owner that causes or is intended to cause any person lawfully entitled to occupancy of a dwelling unit to vacate the unit or to surrender or waive any occupancy rights.” This includes actions such as the use of force or threats, repeated interruptions of essential services, the frequent filing of baseless court actions, removing a tenant’s possessions, removing or tampering with doors or locks, or other acts that substantially interfere with or disturb the comfort, repose, peace or quiet of any unit’s lawful occupant. Tenants can seek a civil penalty and an order by the court to order the owner to stop harassment.

If you want to start an HP action against the property owner, go to the Clerk's Office at the Housing Court. You do not need a lawyer to start an HP case. For more information about HP actions, visit the website of the New York State Unified Court System.

Additional Information

Housing Court Answers operates information tables at Housing Court in each of the five boroughs. Staff at the table will provide information on HPD programs, regulations, and other assistance available to property owners and tenants to assist in the preservation of residential property in New York City. Someone is available from Monday through Thursday in the Courts, from 9 am to 5 pm (except Staten Island). Housing Court Answers: (212) 962-4795

Common Housing Court Terms

Mediation:

The process through which Court-appointed mediators assist parties in a legal dispute to make a mutually fair agreement and to understand its terms and conditions.

Order to Show Cause (OTSC):

A legal document used to initiate a special proceeding, or to request the entry or the return of a case to the Court calendar. Among other reasons, tenants may request an OTSC to hold owners accountable for defaulting on an agreement, request more time to pay arrears, or stop an eviction. The OTSC may have the effect of bringing the case to Court more rapidly or staying certain actions by a party until the case is heard in Court.

Adjournment:

When the Court temporarily halts proceedings in a given case at either party’s request or for the court's own reasons and sets a date for the parties to return to Court to continue the proceeding.

Default:

Failure to appear in Court or fulfill an agreement. A default by either party can result in a judgment in their opponent's favor.

Petition:

A legal document that sets out the petitioner's claim for judicial relief.

Petitioner:

The party who initiates the case.

Pro Se:

This Latin term means "by yourself" and refers to parties in a legal dispute that represent themselves in court, without legal counsel.

Rent Abatement:

A reduction in rent to compensate tenants for an owner’s failure to make repairs; rent abatements can be awarded in court orders or stipulations.

Respondent:

The party in a Court case who must answer the special proceeding begun by the petitioner.

Stipulation:

A Court document that lists the terms and conditions of an agreement between a tenant and an owner.

Three-Day Notice:

Refers to the amount of time tenants have to pay arrears after receiving a written request for payment from the owner. If a tenant fails to pay arrears after three days, the owner may be able to initiate legal action against the tenant.

Traverse Hearing:

A Court hearing held to determine whether a party properly served court papers on another party.

Warrant of Eviction:

A legal document issued by the Court that empowers a marshal to remove a tenant from an apartment after the appropriate five day notice expires. Only the marshal's office may serve and execute a warrant of eviction.

With Prejudice:

When a party gives up the right to commence further legal action or assert a claim at a later date. If a case or a claim is discontinued with prejudice, it may not be brought or asserted again.

Without Prejudice:

When the petitioner reserves the right to seek further legal action or assert a claim at a later date. If a case or a claim is discontinued without prejudice, it may be brought or asserted again.

Inquest:

A Court proceeding that takes place after a party has failed to appear. The opposing party may present his or her case to the judge despite the absence of the opposing party.