Heading Off, or Answering, a Lawsuit
If you receive a rent demand or a notice of termination, contact your landlord to try to resolve the matter before it becomes a lawsuit. If you believe you don’t owe anything, this is the time to show your receipts and get a corrected ledger. (Tip: Keep copies of rent receipts, email confirmations, cashier’s check stubs — anything that proves you made a payment.)
If you receive a petition, it means a case has been filed against you. You will need to file an answer in housing court. If you don’t answer, the landlord can get a default judgment and evict you.
When you answer, you get to pick a court date to go before a judge. You will also be able to lodge any defenses you would like to raise in court.
Be sure to bring all relevant receipts and other documents to your first court date: It may save you from having to schedule a second one.
If you find an eviction notice from a city marshal on your door, you can file an order to show cause in housing court to halt the eviction. This will let you stay in your home until you can plead your case before a judge.
Legal Assistance and Other Resources
There are many tenant groups that can help you understand your rights, find a lawyer, look into rental assistance programs and more. Housing Court Answers offers detailed information on its website and at tables in housing courts across the city. Your City Council member can also help connect you with tenant organizations and other resources in your area.
Last year, the city passed a law to provide free legal counsel to New Yorkers who make less than $24,280 a year (or $50,200 for a family of four). The program, which is being put into effect over five years, is available in 15 ZIP codes so far: 10025, 10026, 10027, 11216, 11221, 11225, 11433, 11434, 11373, 10302, 10303, 10314, 10457, 10467 and 10468.