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How to Respond to Decreased Building Services

Tenants in rent-regulated apartments can file individual and building-wide complaints if the services provided are inadequate. That action could result in a rent reduction.

A building-wide service complaint may relate to lack of elevator service, unsanitary halls, faulty security systems, etc. The process of filing is as follows.

A tenant or group of tenants can file a Statement of Complaint of a Decrease in Building-Wide Services, (DHCR form RA-84); or a tenant can file an Individual Tenant Statement of Complaint (DHCR from RA-81) for decreased service in an individual apartment. To obtain a rent reduction based on service reduction, a tenant must specifically request a rent reduction, or if party to a building-side complaint, must sign the complaint as one of the claimants requesting the rent reduction.

The Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) screens and dockets complaints and sends the tenant(s) an acknowledgment with the docket number.

A copy of the complaint is sent to the owner with a notice to answer the tenant’s charges. The owner can respond to the tenant’s charges by making the necessary repairs or providing the missing services or stating why the alleged condition was not repaired or remedied. DHCR will send the tenant a copy of the owner’s answer if it is relevant to the determination.

The tenant has 20 days from receiving the owner’s answer to respond to DHCR.

If the tenant claims that the owner’s answer is not accurate, DHCR may order an inspection. Often these questions of fact cannot be resolved without on-site evidence.

If the evidence indicates that the owner failed to maintain required services, DHCR may issue a rent reduction or, if the tenant fails to request a rent reduction, DHCR will direct the owner to restore the services. A reduction in rent, if ordered, will be in effect until DHCR issues an order restoring the rent. In addition, in rent stabilized apartments, the order finding a reduction in services may bar the owner from collecting any further increases in rent until full services are restored.

Statewide, if a tenant lives in a rent stabilized apartment and receives a rent reduction for an individual apartment or a building-wide service decrease, the order becomes effective the first day of the month following the date when the owner was served with the tenant’s complaint. The rent reduction consists of a percentage equal to the guideline increase most recent to when the complain was filed. If more than one tenant applied, the rent reduction affects each tenant who signed the building-wide served complaint application requesting the rent reduction.

If a tenant lives in a rent controlled apartment, the rent reduction based on either an individual apartment or a building-wide service decrease becomes effective the first day of the month following DHCR’s issuance of the order. If more than one tenant signs a building-wide service complaint application, the rent reduction affects all tenants who signed. Rent controlled tenants who did not sign may receive the reduction if building-wide hazardous conditions are found.

If a tenant receives a rent reduction from DHCR and also receives another abatement or a rent credit because of the same conditions, the tenant cannot get both benefits at the same time.

The owner may be ordered to restore full services even if a rent reduction has not been granted. An owner’s failure to comply with the DHCR order requiring restoration of services can result in even greater penalties, such as fines.

To have the rent restored to its original amount, an owner must file Owner’s Application to Restore Rent and/or Collect Rent Adjustment (DHCR form RTP-19). For rent stabilized apartments outside of NYC, the owner must include a copy of a new Certificate of Maintenance of Services with the application. An order will be issued granting or denying the application.

For more information or assistance, call the DHCR Rent InfoLine, or visit your or County Rent Office.

Central
92-31 Union Hall Street
4th Floor
Jamaica, NY 11433
(718)739-6400

Brooklyn
55 Hanson Place
7th Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11217

Upper Manhattan
163 West 125th Street
5th Floor
New York, NY 10027
North side of 110 St. and above

Nassau County
50 Clinton Street
6th Floor
Hempstead, NY 11550

Westchester County
55 Church Street
White Plain, NY 10601

Lower Manhattan
25 Beaver Street 5th Floor
New York, NY10004
South side of 110 St. and below

Bronx
1 Fordam Plaza
2nd Floor
Bronx, NY 10458

Staten Island
60 Bay Street
7th Floor
Staten Island, NY 10301

Rockland County
94-96 North Main Street
Spring Valley, NY 10977

How MCI Rent Increases are Determined

When an owner makes an improvement or installation to a building subject to the rent stabilization or rent control laws, the owner may be permitted to increase the rent based on the actual, verified cost of the improvement or installation.

To qualify as an MCI, the improvement or installation must:

  • be deemed depreciable under the Internal Revenue Code other than for ordinary repairs;
  • be for the operation, preservation and maintenance of the building;
  • directly or indirectly benefit all tenants; and,
  • meet the requirements set forth in the Division of Housing and Community Renewal’s (DHCR’s) useful life schedule, which is found in DHCR’s Operational Bulletin 90-2, “Useful Life Schedule for Major Capital Improvements.”

To be eligible for a rent increase, the MCI must be a new installation and not a repair to old equipment. For example, an owner may receive an MCI increase for a new boiler or a new roof but not for a repaired or rebuilt one. Some procedures qualify as MCI’s as well, such as painting and waterproofing. the New York City Rent Stabilization Code (RSC) provides that applications for MCI rent increases must be filed within two years of the installation.

When the owner submits an MCI rent increase application to DHCR, DHCR notifies the tenants and gives them an opportunity to submit objections to the application. The owner may either keep a copy of the application with supporting documentation on the premises so that tenants can examine it or, a copy with supporting documentation will be available at DHCR for tenant review. The tenants’ responses are considered prior to a final determination.

DHCR will issue an order either granting an increase in whole or in part or denying the increase. DHCR computes the rent increase for a rent stabilized or rent controlled apartment based upon a seven-year period of amortization of the verified costs of the MCI. The rent increase is a permanent addition to the legal regulated rent and does not drop off after the seven-year period. The tenant’s increase is based upon a per room amount. For the definition of a “room,” refer to DHCR’s Policy Statement 93-2, “Definition of Room for MCI Purposes.”

No increase may be charged or collected unless and until DHCR issues an order approving the increase.

In addition, an owner cannot collect an MCI increase from a tenant for whom DHCR has determined that “required services” are not being maintained; or from a tenant who has received a rent reduction order before the issuance of the order granting an MCI rent increase. Where DHCR issues a rent reduction order, an owner may continue to collect an MCI rent increase that the owner began collecting before the rent reduction order was issued regardless of the effective date of the rent reduction order. For additional information, see DHCR’s Operational Bulletin 95-1, “Collectiblity of MCI/OI Increases Where the Rent is Reduced Because of Diminution of Services.”

No MCI rent increase will be approved while a building-wide service reduction order is in effect. Also, if there is an outstanding finding of harassment, DHCR will not grant an increase for the affected apartment(s) and/or building(s).

For rent stabilized apartments in NYC, the rent increase collectible in any one year may not exceed 6% of the tenant’s rent, as listed on the schedule of monthly rental income filed with the owner’s application. Increases above the 6% cap can be spread forward to future years. How this annual 6% cap affects the collectibility of the temporary retroactive portion of the MCI rent increase is addressed in each order granting the MCI rent increase. For all rent controlled apartments and for stabilized apartments outside NYC, the increase collectible in any one year may not exceed 15% of the tenant’s rent as of the issue date of the order. There is no retroactive portion.

For rent stabilized apartments in NYC, the MCI rent increase is generally effective as of the first rent payment date 30 days after the tenants are served with the owner’s application.

For all other regulated apartments, the increase takes effect on the first rent payment date after the issuance of the order granting the increase.

If the NYC apartment owner received a “J-51” tax abatement for the major capital improvement, the rent increase is offset by a portion of the value of the tax abatement. For rent controlled apartments in buildings receiving a “J-51” tax benefit, the MCI increase is offset by 2/3 for the length of the tax benefit. For rent stabilized apartments in “J-51” buildings, the increase is offset 50% for the length of the tax benefit.

A senior citizen with a valid Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) is exempt from paying any portion of the MCI increase that would raise his or her total rent to over 1/3 of the tenant’s total disposable income. However, if the owner requests it, any increase in the security deposit resulting from the MCI rent increase must be paid by the SCRIE tenants.

If an apartment(s) is vacant or becomes vacant while the MCI application is pending, the owner must notify any incoming tenant that the tenant’s rent will increase if the MCI application is approved. Failure to indicate this anticipated rent increase in the vacancy lease will result in no MCI increase being approved for this apartment until the lease is renewed. If an owner charges the increase rent without this proper notification, the owner risks overcharge penalties.

A vacancy lease clause that satisfactorily notifies an incoming tenant of a pending MCI application is one which provides, “Application for a major capital improvement rent increase has been filed with DHCR based upon the following work:___________________________, Docket# _________. Should DHCR issue an order granting the rent increase, the rent quoted in this lease will be increased.”

If DHCR approves an application for a rent increase based on an MCI, the owner may charge the increase during the term of an existing lease only if the lease contains a clause specifically authorizing the owner to do so. A satisfactory lease clause would provide, “The rent established in this lease may be increased or decreased by an order of DHCR or the Rent Guidelines Board.”

For more information or assistance, call the DHCR Rent InfoLine, or visit your or County Rent Office.

Central
92-31 Union Hall Street
4th Floor
Jamaica, NY 11433
(718)739-6400

Brooklyn
55 Hanson Place
7th Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11217

Upper Manhattan
163 West 125th Street
5th Floor
New York, NY 10027
North side of 110 St. and above

Nassau County
50 Clinton Street
6th Floor
Hempstead, NY 11550

Westchester County
55 Church Street
White Plain, NY 10601

Lower Manhattan
25 Beaver Street 5th Floor
New York, NY10004
South side of 110 St. and below

Bronx
1 Fordam Plaza
2nd Floor
Bronx, NY 10458

Staten Island
60 Bay Street
7th Floor
Staten Island, NY 10301

Rockland County
94-96 North Main Street
Spring Valley, NY 10977

How Apartment Improvement Rent Increases are Calculated

A building owner may raise the rent in an individual apartment based on increased services, new equipment, or improvements. This increase is in addition to the regular annual Rent Guidelines Board increases for rent stabilized apartments, and Maximum Base Rent increases for rent controlled apartments.

If an owner adds new services, improvements, or new equipment to an occupied rent stabilized or rent controlled apartment, the owner must get the tenant’s written consent to pay the increase. The owner may charge the tenant a rent increase equal to 1/40th of the cost of the new equipment, including installation costs, but not finance charges. An order from DHCR is not required before the owner may collect this type of rent increase. However, for rent controlled housing accommodations before an owner may collect this increase, the owner must file an “Owner’s Notice of a Rent Increase Based on Increased Services/New Furnishings/Equipment/Painting; and Tenant’s Statement of Consent” (DHCR Form RN-79b) with DHCR.

If any apartment is vacant, the owner does not have to get either prior approval by DHCR or written consent of a tenant to collect the 1/40th increase.

The owner should keep all bills for improved services, new equipment, or improvements to prove their cost in the event a tenant challenges the rent increase.

For more information or assistance, call the DHCR Rent InfoLine, or visit your Borough or County Rent Office.

Central
92-31 Union Hall Street
4th Floor
Jamaica, NY 11433
(718)739-6400

Brooklyn
55 Hanson Place
7th Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11217

Upper Manhattan
163 West 125th Street
5th Floor
New York, NY 10027
North side of 110 St. and above

Nassau County
50 Clinton Street
6th Floor
Hempstead, NY 11550

Westchester County
55 Church Street
White Plain, NY 10601

Lower Manhattan
25 Beaver Street 5th Floor
New York, NY10004
South side of 110 St. and below

Bronx
1 Fordam Plaza
2nd Floor
Bronx, NY 10458

Staten Island
60 Bay Street
7th Floor
Staten Island, NY 10301

Rockland County
94-96 North Main Street
Spring Valley, NY 10977

Apply for SCRIE (Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption)

The law grants certain exemptions from rent increases to tenant who are senior citizens.

If a New York City (NYC) tenant or tenant’s spouse is a 62 years of age or older and is living in a rent stabilized apartment, and the combined household income is $20,000 per year ort less and they are paying at least 1/3 of their disposable income towards their rent, senior citizen tenant may apply for the SENIOR CITIZEN RENT INCREASE EXEMPTION PROGRAM (SCRIE). In NYC, the Department of Finance (DoF) administers the SCRIE program. In the counties outside of NYC covered by the Emergency Tenant Protection Act, the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) administers the SCRIE is a local option and communities have different income eligibility limits and regulations.

If a NYC tenant qualifies for this program, the tenant is exempt from future rent guidelines increases, Maximum Base Rent increase, fuel cost adjustments, and increases based on owner’s economical hardship and Major Capital Improvements. However, the tenant must pay the additional security deposit. Tenants receiving a New York City Senior Citizen Rent Exemption (SCRIE) may chose a one or two year lease renewal. New York City senior citizen tenant may also carry out this exemption from one apartment to another upon moving, upon the proper application being made to DoF.

downloadTo apply for SCRIE, the tenant of a NYC rent controlled or rent stabilized apartment must file an application with the DoF. You can apply online here. DHCR administers this program only in the countries outside NYC.

Other rights for the NYC senior citizen include:

  1. If a building is being converted to cooperative or condominium ownership under an Eviction Plan, an “eligible senior citizen” may refuse to purchase the apartment and remain in occupancy as a fully protected rent stabilized tenant with the right to a lease renewal. Rent controlled senior citizen tenants are similarly protected against eviction.

    “Eligible senior citizen” are who are primary residents in the apartment and at least 62 years of age or have a spouse 62 years of age or older on the date the New York State Attorney General accepts the Eviction Plan for filing.

    To take advantage of this benefit, an eligible senior citizen in NYC must elect, on forms provided by the Attorney General, to become a “non-purchasing” tenant within 60 days of the date that the Final Offering is presented to the tenants. Outside NYC, there is no formal election requirement.

  2. An owner cannot evict from an rent stabilized apartments in NYC for the purpose of the owner occupancy, when either the tenant or the tenant’s spouse is 62 years of age or older unless the owner provides an equivalent or superior apartment the same or lower rent in area near the tenant’s present apartment.
  3. For rent stabilized apartments outside of NYC and rent controlled apartment statewide, an owner may not evict a tenant for the purpose of owner occupancy where any member of the tenant’s household is 62 years of age or older.
  4. A NYC senior citizen with a currently valid SCRIE order is not required to pay any portion of fuel cost increase that would raise the total rent to over 1/3 of the tenant’s household disposable income. A senior citizen who applies for and is granted a SCRIE order within 90 days after receipt of the owner’s fuel cost adjustment report, are retroactively exempt from paying any portion of the most recent fuel cost adjustment that would raise the total rent to over 1/3 of the tenant’s total household disposable income.
  5. A tenant 62 years of age or older may terminate his/her lease, without penalty, in order to move into a health care facility or senior citizen housing complex. If the senior citizen housing terminates the lease in order to move into a health care facility or senior citizen housing complex. If the senior citizen housing complex, the owner must receive at least 30 days written notice, accompanied by documentation of admission or pending admission to the health care facility or senior citizen housing complex.

For more information or assistance, visit the City’s SCRIE page on the DoF website here, call the DHCR Rent InfoLine, or visit your County Rent Office below.  You can also make an appointment with a Cooper Square Committee Housing Specialist.  E-mail us here or call 212-228-8210.

Central, 92-31 Union Hall Street, 4th Floor, Jamaica, NY 11433, (718)739-6400

Brooklyn, 55 Hanson Place, 7th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11217

Upper Manhattan, 163 West 125th Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10027, North side of 110 St. and above

Nassau County, 50 Clinton Street, 6th Floor, Hempstead, NY 11550

Westchester County, 55 Church Street, White Plain, NY 10601

Lower Manhattan, 25 Beaver Street 5th Floor, New York, NY10004, South side of 110 St. and below

Bronx, 1 Fordham Plaza, 2nd Floor, Bronx, NY 10458

Staten Island, 60 Bay Street, 7th Floor, Staten Island, NY 10301

Rockland County, 94-96 North Main Street, Spring Valley, NY 10977

How to File a Complaint of Harassment

Harassment by an owner is a course of action intended to force a tenant out of his/her apartment or to cause a tenant to give up the rights granted the tenant by the Rent Stabilization Law or Rent Control Law.

No owner or anyone acting for the owner may interfere with a tenant’s privacy, comfort, or quiet enjoyment of the apartment. Interference includes reducing services or engaging in baseless court proceeding.

Harassment is a serious violation of a tenant’s rights. The New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) established the Enforcement Unit is specifically to handle harassment cases. The Unit is staffed with attorneys who specialize in this area of the rent laws. They respond to all complaint of harassment made within New York State related to rent regulated housing.

Owners found guilty of tenant harassment based on acts or offenses committed before July 20, 1997 are subject to fines of up to $1,000 for each violation against a rent controlled tenant and up to $5,000 for each violation against a rent stabilized tenant.

The Rent Regulation Reform Act of 1997 increased the fines for tenants harassment, and made them uniform for rent controlled and rent stabilized apartment. Owners found guilty of tenant harassment based on acts or offenses committed on July 20, 1997 are subject to fines of up to $5,000 for each violation against any rent regulated tenant.

In addition, DHCR, will permit no rent increases once there has been a finding of harassment until there is a finding that the harassment has ended. If you think you are a victim of harassment, you may obtain a “Tenant Statement of Complaint(s)-Harassment” (DHCR Form RA-60H) from your Borough or County Rent Office, or write to:

DHCR Enforcement Bureau
25 Beaver Street
New York, NY 10004

For more information or assistance, call the DHCR Rent InfoLine, or visit your or County Rent Office.

Central
92-31 Union Hall Street
4th Floor
Jamaica, NY 11433
(718)739-6400

Brooklyn
55 Hanson Place
7th Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11217

Upper Manhattan
163 West 125th Street
5th Floor
New York, NY 10027
North side of 110 St. and above

Nassau County
50 Clinton Street
6th Floor
Hempstead, NY 11550

Westchester County
55 Church Street
White Plain, NY 10601

Lower Manhattan
25 Beaver Street 5th Floor
New York, NY10004
South side of 110 St. and below

Bronx
1 Fordam Plaza
2nd Floor
Bronx, NY 10458

Staten Island
60 Bay Street
7th Floor
Staten Island, NY 10301

Rockland County
94-96 North Main Street
Spring Valley, NY 10977

Rules Governing Personal Use Evictions

An owner may refuse to renew a rent stabilized tenant’s lease in NYC because the owner wants the apartment for personal use and occupancy as a primary residence for the owner or a member of the owner’s immediate family. Under the Rent Stabilization Law, an owner may begin an eviction proceeding when the current lease expires, but only after the tenant is given written notice that the lease will not be renewed. This notice must be served at least 120 and not more than 150 days before the current lease term expires.

According to the Rent Stabilization Law, only one of the individual owners of a building can take possession of one or more dwelling units for personal or immediate family use and occupancy, even if the building has joint or multiple ownership.

If after an owner recovers possession of the apartment, and the owner does not use the apartment(s) as the owner’s or an immediate family member’s primary residence for three years, the owner may lose the right to any rent increase for other apartments in that building for three years.

For rent stabilized apartments outside NYC and for rent controlled apartments statewide, the owner must apply to DHCR for an order granting a certificate of eviction by filing an “Owner’s Application for Order Granting Approval to Refuse Renewal of Lease and/or to Proceed for Eviction for Owner Occupancy” (DHCR For, RA-54). An owner must establish an immediate and compelling need for the apartment. If DHCR grants this certificate, the owner may then proceed in court to evict the tenants.

Additional rules apply to senior citizens and disabled persons concerning evictions based on owner occupancy:

  • An owner cannot evict a tenant from a rent stabilized apartment in NYC if the tenant or the spouse of the tenant is a senior citizen, 62 years or older, or is a disabled person unless the owner provides an equivalent or superior apartment at the same or lower rent in a nearby area.
  • An owner cannot evict a tenant from a rent stabilized apartment outside of NYC or a rent controlled apartment statewide when a member of the household lawfully occupying the apartment is a senior citizen, 62 years or older, or is a disabled person, or is any person who has been a tenant in the building for 20 years or more.

For more information or assistance, call the DHCR Rent InfoLine, or visit your or County Rent Office.

Central
92-31 Union Hall Street
4th Floor
Jamaica, NY 11433
(718)739-6400

Brooklyn
55 Hanson Place
7th Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11217

Upper Manhattan
163 West 125th Street
5th Floor
New York, NY 10027
North side of 110 St. and above

Nassau County
50 Clinton Street
6th Floor
Hempstead, NY 11550

Westchester County
55 Church Street
White Plain, NY 10601

Lower Manhattan
25 Beaver Street 5th Floor
New York, NY10004
South side of 110 St. and below

Bronx
1 Fordam Plaza
2nd Floor
Bronx, NY 10458

Staten Island
60 Bay Street
7th Floor
Staten Island, NY 10301

Rockland County
94-96 North Main Street
Spring Valley, NY 10977

How to File a Petition for Administrative Review

An owner, tenant, or other party aggrieved by a Rent Administrator’s order may file a Petition for Adminstrative Review (PAR) with the NYS Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR). The petition must specify the alleged errors and list the issues upon which the order should be reviewed. The scope of review in the PAR proceeding is generally limited to the facts or evidence presented to the Rent Administrative and raised in the ARP.

For the rent control cases statewide, and for rent stabilization (ETPA) cases outside of NYC, a PAR must be filed within 33 days after the order is issued. For rent stabilization cases in NYC, the required filing time is within 35 days after the order was issued. DHCR permits an additional two days for the rent control and ETPA mailing ton create mailing to create a uniform 35 days period.

A PAR must be filed on a Petition for Adminstrative Review (DHCR Form RAR-2) and be completed and signed by the petitioner or duly designated representative. The form is available at the office of Rent Administrative, 92-31 Union Hall Street 4th Floor, Jamaica, NY and in the Borough and District Rent Office. Since the regulation for PARs on rent control, rent stabilization, and ETPA cases may vary, carefully read the appropriate regulations and instructions on the reverse side of the PAR form.

The original petition and one copy must be filed in person or by mail. If the PAR is hand-delivered, it must be received within the 35 day filing period for New York City Stabilization cases within 33 day filing period for rent control and ETPA cases. If the PAR is mailed, it must be postmarked within the required filing period. If a private postage meter is used and the envelope does not have a official U.S postal service postmark, the PAR must received by DHCR within the required time period or must be accompanied by proof that it was mailed within the required time period. PARs received after the time limit will be dismissed.

When DHCR receives a completed PAR, the Office of Rent Administrative will send a copy to all other affected parties with a from allowing each party to respond to DHCR. DHCR will send these answer to all adversely affected parties with a from allowing each party respond to DHCR. DHCR will send a these answer to all adversely affected parties. DHCR will then review the PAR and the answers, request additional information as necessary, and make the final determination. DHCR will inform all parties to the PAR on what legal and factual basis the determination was made.

The proper filing of a PAR against a RENT ADMINSTATOR’S ORDER, other than an order adjusting, fixing, or establishing the legal regulated rent, stays (freezes) that order until the Commissioner makes the final determination. Where an Administrator’s Order provides for an adjustment in rent, retroactive portion of the adjustment, if any, is generally put on hold but not the prospective portion altering the future rent.

On the application by aggrieved party, the Commissioner may stay any other order or vacate an automatic stay. The Commissioner has the right to grant or deny the PAR in whole or in part or even to return the proceeding to Rent Administrator for further review.

Unless DHCR makes a final determination within 90 days (or any extension thereof), the PAR may be “deemeded denied” by the petitioner. The petitioner may then file an Article 78 in court within 60 days after the expiration of 90 day period (or extended period). The law also permits Article 78 proceeding within 60 day after DHCR issues a final order.

Since DHCR will issues a final PAR order, despite the passage of the 90 days “deemeded denied” period (or extension), it may be advisable to wait for that decision explaining the basis for the Order.

For more information or assistance, call the DHCR Rent InfoLine, or visit your or County Rent Office.

 

Central
92-31 Union Hall Street
4th Floor
Jamaica, NY 11433
(718)739-6400

 

Brooklyn
55 Hanson Place
7th Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11217

Upper Manhattan
163 West 125th Street
5th Floor
New York, NY 10027
North side of 110 St. and above

Nassau County
50 Clinton Street
6th Floor
Hempstead, NY 11550

Westchester County
55 Church Street
White Plain, NY 10601

Lower Manhattan
25 Beaver Street 5th Floor
New York, NY10004
South side of 110 St. and below

Bronx
1 Fordam Plaza
2nd Floor
Bronx, NY 10458

Staten Island
60 Bay Street
7th Floor
Staten Island, NY 10301

Rockland County
94-96 North Main Street
Spring Valley, NY 10977

How to Respond to a Dispossess Notice

Before you can be legally evicted from your apartment, the landlord must begin a case against you in the Housing Part of Civil Court, commonly called “Housing Court.” If the landlord wants to evict you for not paying rent, you must be served with papers called a “Non-Payment Petition” and “Notice of Petition.” These papers are often called “a dispossess notice.”

DO NOT IGNORE any legal papers, notices or postcards that come from the court. If you ignore these papers and do not go to court, you can lose the case for failure to answer and you can be evicted.

Answering the Dispossess

When you receive a dispossess notice, read it carefully. It will tell you that you must file an answer in Housing Court within five days. It will also tell you where you must go. (Find the specific location of the Housing Court in this Information Sheet). Go immediately with your papers to the Housing Court in the borough in which your building is located and see the landlord/tenant clerk. Be ready to give your answer to the clerk, either orally or in writing. Your answer should state your defenses. Some possible defenses are:

  1. Your apartment is in poor condition and has serious violations that the landlord has refused to repair (see section marked “important”).
  2. You paid the rent or the landlord is demanding the wrong amount of rent or you tried to pay the rent and the landlord refused to accept it.
  3. Your dispossess or Notice of Petition was not “served” or delivered to you properly (see section marked “proper service”).
  4. Your landlord never asked you for the rent.
  5. The person or company suing you is not your landlord.

Important: If your apartment Is in poor or hazardous condition and you need repairs, or your building lacks essential services such as heat and/or hot water, tell the court clerk that you want to schedule an inspection of your apartment and/or building by the court’s DHPD (Department of Housing Preservation and Development) Inspectors. Fill out a complete list of all the needed repairs and include it with your answer. If the clerk tells you that an Inspector is not available, be prepared to ask the judge when you appear on your court date.

Proper Service

The dispossess must be served to you one of three ways:

  1. handed to you personally
  2. handed to someone in your apartment and copies sent by certified AND regular mail to you
  3. taped on or slipped under your door and copies sent by certified AND regular mail to you

After you have given your answer to the clerk and asked for an inspection, the clerk will give you a date to come back to court for a hearing, usually one week later. On your court date, bring with you all your papers related to your case: rent receipts, cancelled checks, photographs of poor conditions, records that you may have kept regarding conditions and/or lack of repairs, etc.

Your Day in Court

When you return to court on the day the clerk has indicated, go to the Calendar Part, Part 18 (unless otherwise directed). Be there by 9:30 am sharp. If you are late you may lose your case for failure to appear and can be evicted. This is a large, busy, noisy and often confusing place. Listen carefully for your name to be called. If you are ready to go to trial when your case is called, answer clearly “TENANT READY.” If you could not schedule an inspection in the clerk”s office, say “TENANT REQUESTS INSPECTION.” If you need to postpone or adjourn your case to another day, say “TENANT APPLICATION.” You may have to approach the judge and explain why you need another date.

If both you and the landlord answer “ready,” your case may be reviewed by a mediator or you will be sent to another room called the “trial part”. Go to the room you have been assigned and tell the court officer there that you are the tenant and you are ready. You may have to wait a long time for the landlord and/or his or her attorney to appear. Remind the court officer that you are still waiting. (On Staten Island you will not be sent to another room until your case is discussed with the judge in Part 18.)

Settling Your Case

Before seeing the trial part judge you may be urged to try to agree to a settlement with your landlord or your landlord”s attorney. You may listen to the landlord”s offer but remember: you are under no obligation to accept the landlord”s offer. Present what you think is a fair settlement. Don”t feel pressured. You always have the right to a hearing before a judge.

If you decide to settle the case with the landlord make sure the agreement is in writing. This written agreement is called a “stipulation,” and it should say what each side has promised to do and what will happen if the agreement is not followed. If you need repairs you can ask to make them a condition for paying back rent. If you have poor conditions in your apartment you can ask to lower the amount of money owed: this is called a “rent abatement,” Make sure you agree with the amount of money the stipulation says you owe. Make sure you have read the stipulation carefully, that you understand it before signing it, and that a copy is read by the judge and filed with the court. If you have questions about what you are signing, ask the judge to explain it.

Going Before the Judge

If you do not want to settle the case, tell the court officer that you want to have a conference in front of the judge. (When you speak to the judge make sure that what is being said is “on the record” — either recorded on tape or by the court stenographer.) The judge or his/her law assistant may try to mediate the case. If a settlement still cannot be reached, the judge may order a trial. The landlord must prove to the judge that s/he is entitled to rent and you will have the opportunity to state your defenses. Keep in mind that if you do agree to go to trial and lose the case you may be ordered to pay your rent money within a short period of time.

If your apartment has serious repair problems and the landlord has refused to make repairs you should be prepared to prove that these conditions exist. Testify yourself and ask others to testify. If you are working with a tenant advocate, you may ask that person to testify. Show pictures of the conditions. Your most important evidence will be the report of the inspection on your apartment that you requested when you answered your dispossess. Ask the judge to look at the inspection report written by the DHPD inspector.

What Might Happen Next

Several things may happen as a result of your day in court. The judge may sign your stipulation “So Ordered by the Court.” The judge may decide to issue an Order requiring you to pay the rent by a certain date. S/he may also issue an Order requiring you to pay the rent and requiring the landlord to make repairs.

If you do not pay the rent by the date agreed to in court either by stipulation or by court order, the landlord will go back to court and get a “Warrant of Eviction”. You will then receive a “72-Hour Notice” from the Marshal. Do not ignore this notice! Go to the court immediately and ask at the Clerk”s office for an Order to Show Cause. Explain why you failed to pay the amount of money you agreed to pay or were ordered to pay by the court. If your argument has merit, you will be given the opportunity to go before a judge again. You should also go back to court and request an Order to Show Cause if you pay the rent but the landlord does not make the repairs ordered.

Important: You should always seek advice as soon as you receive legal papers. Never ignore papers from the court. If you do you may be evicted. Consult a lawyer or a neighborhood housing organization as soon as possible.

Where to Go for Help

The Housing Divisions of the Civil Court:

Manhattan
111 Centre Street
New York, NY 10013
(212)374-8416/8412

Brooklyn
141 Livingston Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 643-7528/7529

Staten Island
927 Castleton Avenue
Staten Island, NY 10310
(718)390-5420

Bronx
851 Grand Concourse (at 161 Street)
Bronx, NY 10451
(718) 590-3570/1/2/3

Queens
120-55 Queens Boulevard
Kew Gardens, NY 11424
(718) 520-3436/34l4

The city-wide Task Force on Housing Court staffs information tables in each of the five Housing Courts five mornings a week (except Staten Island, which is open Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.) The information is free and is available to all unrepresented litigants. Referrals will be made to neighborhood groups and legal services organizations for additional assistance.

If you have a low income, you may be eligible for free legal services. To get the addresses of the legal services office closest to your neighborhood, contact:

The Legal Aid Society
11 Park Place or 230 East 106 Street
New York, NY
(212) 722-2000

Legal Services for New York City
350 Broadway
New York, 10029
(212) 431-7200

If you need a referral for a lawyer and you are not eligible for free legal services, contact:

The Bar Association
42 West 44 Street
New York, NY 10010
(212) 626-7373

The Civil Court Info line has recorded information on Housing Court. The number is (212) 791-6000.

If you are being evicted for nonpayment of rent, you may be eligible for an Emergency Grant from the Human Resources Administration (HRA), There is an HRA Unit in each Housing Court.

Each Housing Court, except Staten Island, has a Pro-Se Attorney who is there to help persons without an attorney who need advice and Information. The Clerk”s office can direct you to the Pro-Se Attorney in the Court.

This information sheet was written and prepared by the City-Wide Task Force on Housing Court, Inc., a not-for-profit coalition of community housing organizations. This information was not prepared by attorneys but by experienced housing organizers and should not be thought of as legal advice.

How to Respond to a Holdover Notice

In a holdover proceeding, the landlord seeks to evict a tenant whether or not the tenant has paid the rent. Usually the landlord wants the apartment back because he or she doesn’t like the tenant or wants to rent the apartment to a relative or friend or wants to get a higher rent.

A tenant’s ability to defend against a holdover depends on the type of apartment involved. Rent-controlled and rent-stabilized tenants can be evicted only in very limited situations, such as when the tenant in creating a serious nuisance or the landlord legitimately needs the apartment for his or her own use. Other tenants (generally those in buildings with fewer than six units) have much less protection unless they have a lease.

Holdovers start in various ways. A rent-controlled tenant may receive a notice that the landlord is seeking a “certificate of eviction” from the Division of Housing and Community Renewal. Tenants may receive notices to correct something the landlord claims is a violation of the lease or an illegal condition. Consult an attorney if you get one of these notices.

The next thing a tenant may receive is a “10-day notice” or a “30-day notice.” In some cases, this is the first paper received. This notice tells the tenant that the landlord wants him or her to be out of the apartment by a specific date, at least 10 or 30 days away. Tenants sometimes panic when they receive this type of notice and move out immediately. DON’T. A 10-day or 30-day notice does not give the landlord the right to evict you. To evict a tenant, the landlord has to take the tenant to court and win the case. And even if the landlord does win, the court will normally give the tenant a specific amount of time in which to find a new apartment and get resettled (usually up to 6 months).

Landlords often refuse to accept rent after issuing the notice. Try to pay the rent anyway. If it is refused, save the money. You may need to pay the landlord later, after you go to court.

The landlord starts a holdover case in court by filing a Petition and Notice of Petition, somewhat similar to the non-payment dispossess papers. You can tell that a petition is a holdover because it normally says “HOLDOVER” in the upper right hand corner.

[This fact sheet was reproduced from “A Tenant’s Guide to Housing Court,” which was prepared by the Brooklyn Legal Services Corp.]