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.
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 9am to 5pm (except Staten Island). Housing Court Answers: (212) 962-4795.
Non-payment Eviction Proceedings: The only legal way to evict a nonpaying tenant is through a nonpayment eviction proceeding in Housing Court. Building owners must notify the tenant that rent is late, what the balance is, and that, if not paid, the tenant will be evicted. Three days after notice is given or oral demand for the rent is made, the owner may file a nonpayment proceeding in Housing Court and serve papers on the tenant. The tenant must answer the petition in person at the Housing Court Clerk’s office. The Clerk will then provide a court date to the tenant. On the court date, the tenant has an opportunity to present his or her defense to a Housing Court Judge. It is advisable for a tenant to consult an attorney whenever eviction proceedings are concerned. Owners must obtain a judgment of possession and “warrant” directing a city marshal to evict the tenant. Tenants may have a defense to a claim for rent in a building which has been illegally altered and/or for which there is no current Certificate of Occupancy indicating that the rented space can be legally occupied.
Holdover Eviction Proceedings: An owner may commence a summary proceeding for possession of an apartment for a breach of the lease. If a tenant’s lease contains a provision allowing for termination for committing a “nuisance,” an owner may undertake eviction proceedings for objectionable conduct. A “nuisance” is generally considered persistent and egregious conduct that threatens the health, safety or comfort of neighboring tenants. To evict, owners must provide evidence proving that the tenant’s behavior meets this standard. The landlord must serve a preliminary notice which terminates the lease prior to commencement of the proceeding. The owner may also commence holdover proceedings for other reasons such as illegal sublet, non-primary residence, illegal use, or expiration of lease where no renewal is mandated by law.
There are free legal services for certain low income persons who have been served with Housing Court documents and are in need of assistance to prevent eviction. For more information call (212) 577-3300 or 311.
Families and individuals with rent arrears who may be at risk of eviction can apply for NYC HRA’s One-Shot Deal rent assistance. Contact HRA’s Infoline at (718) 557-1399 for more information. If you receive Cash Assistance/Public Assistance, you may be eligible for help paying your back rent. You should go to your HRA Job Center and speak to someone in the Homelessness Diversion Unit to discuss your situation.
Seniors who have received a Notice of Eviction or a written notice from their landlord can get eviction prevention assistance and legal referrals. The City also provides eviction assistance for persons over the age of 60 who are mentally or physically impaired. For help, call 311.
Households on the brink of homelessness can access an extensive network of neighborhood- based services, under contract with the NYC Department of Homeless Services, to help them remain in their communities and avoid entering shelter. Among the services that may be offered are:
If you or someone you know is experiencing a household crisis, call 311 to locate your nearest HOMEBASE office.
Rental Arrears Grants for Single Adults and Families
HRA can assist tenants who have legal possession of an apartment, or applicants who have been evicted but whose landlords are willing to continue renting the apartment, by paying their arrears through a rental arrears grant. Grants are available for Public Assistance recipients and for those people ineligible for Public Assistance. Families and single adults are eligible. Contact HRA’s Infoline at (718) 557-1399 for more information. Call 311 to contact the HRA Job Center in your area and apply for a rental arrears grant.
Housing Court Answers
The Housing Court Answers’ (HCA) also has a hotline if you need help paying back rent. Call if you have a case in Housing Court and a good reason for falling behind in your rent such as a death in the family, serious illness, loss of job, or reduction in hours at work, if your income is now high enough that you can pay your future rent, and the amount of arrears is “manageable.” HCA does not provide direct financial help, but refers callers to charities and provides information about NYC Human Resources Administrations rules for assistance. Staff and volunteers at information tables at all Housing Courts answer questions about court procedures and forms. They can also provide referrals to legal services providers and other eviction prevention organizations, resources, and agencies. Most staff members speak English and Spanish.