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Housing Programs & Services

NYC Housing Court: Changes under COVID-19

T + T

Summary

NYC Housing Court began accepting new filings effective June 22, 2020. Appearances may either be adjourned or occur remotely.

If you are a Benefits Plus subscriber, for additional information on NYC’s Housing Court system, refer to Benefits Plus, Housing Programs and Services, Housing Court. For subscription information visit: https://bplc.cssny.org/home/subscription_options.

Resumption of In-Person Court Operations

STARTING A CASE

NYC Housing Court is accepting filings of new actions or proceedings. Parties are not required to visit a courthouse to start a proceeding, but can do it remotely. For information on how to start a case remotely, visit https://www.nycourts.gov/courts/nyc/civil/corona/operating_plan.shtml.

Parties who are unable to file new cases remotely can file in person. NYC Housing Court is asking that individuals contact the clerk in their borough’s housing court in advance before filing new cases in person. For phone numbers and email addresses of each borough’s clerk, visit https://www.nycourts.gov/courts/nyc/civil/corona/operating_plan.shtml.

Advocacy Tip

JustFix.NYC has a new tool for tenants to start an Emergency HP Action proceeding to sue their landlord for repairs or harassment without going to court, visit: https://app.justfix.nyc/en/ehp/splash.

For a step-by-step video on how to use the Emergency HP Action tool from JustFix.nyc, click here.

ANSWERING A PETITION

Tenants who receive nonpayment petitions that were filed after November 3rd, 2020have the ordinary legal period of ten days to file an answer. On November 17th, 2020, the Chief Administrative Judge of the NYS Unified Court System issued an administrative order indicating that default judgments, which can lead to evictions, may be awarded against tenants where appropriate, for example, if a tenant fails to answer timely or to appear on their court date.

Note

The NYS COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act signed into law December 28, 2020 indicates that no court can issue a default judgment before May 1, 2021 without holding a court hearing with both parties, which must be requested by the landlord. Additionally, upon a tenant’s request, default judgments issued on or before December 28, 2020 must be vacated (removed) and the case should be restored to the court’s calendar.
For information about additional eviction protections offered under this new law, see above, Eviction Moratoriums, Protections Against Residential Evictions, NYS COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act.

To answer a petition, tenants have the following three options:

  • By Phone
    • Tenants may call the housing court clerk in their borough’s housing court and provide their answers over the phone. For phone numbers of each borough’s clerk, visit http://www.nycourts.gov/courts/nyc/civil/corona/evictions.shtml
    • The clerk will read the completed Answer Form to the tenant. If the answer is missing information or is incorrect, the tenant should inform the clerk. Once the tenant agrees with the information contained in the answer form, the clerk will send the tenant a copy of the Answer Form. The tenant will need to have the copy of the completed answer form available when s/he appears in front of the judge.
  • In-Person
    • Tenants can bring a copy of their written answer or a completed Landlord/Tenant Answer Form to their borough’s housing court.

For additional information on answering an eviction petition, visit https://www.nycourts.gov/courts/nyc/civil/corona/evictions.shtml

Advocacy Tip

Tenants who are being sued in housing court should consult with an attorney to determine if there are any eviction protections that will prevent an eviction, see above, Eviction Moratoriums, Protections Against Residential Evictions.
NYC Tenants without legal representation who receive notices from the court should call 311 and/or Housing Court Answers at 212-962-4795, Monday – Friday, 9am-5pm. When calling 311, tenants should ask to be connected to the Tenant Helpline, where they may be able to access free legal representation. Housing Court Answers is a valuable resource for questions about answering court notices and the current housing court processes.
Tenants with legal representation should contact their attorneys.
For additional tenant resources, see below, Additional Resources, Tenant Resources.

Court Appearances

Since March 16th, 2020, NYC Housing Court has been adjourning (postponing) most appearances in regular housing court. Cases may be adjourned multiple times during the length of the crisis. Additionally, the court is not scheduling conferences or hearings in pending eviction cases in which a tenant is not currently represented by an attorney; these cases are postponed until further notice. If a case has been scheduled, all parties will be notified of adjourned dates by postcard.

As of April 13th, the Court began hearing selected non-essential case types; parties and attorneys in those cases will hear directly from the court.

Parties do not have to go to a courthouse to appear in a case. For information on how to appear remotely, visit: https://www.nycourts.gov/courts/nyc/civil/corona/operating_plan.shtml

Advocacy Tip

Because some cases are being heard remotely by the Court, tenants should discuss with a lawyer before giving their email address, if it is requested by their landlord or housing court.

If NYC residents do not have legal representation, they may be able to access free legal assistance through HRA’s Office of Civil Justice. For more information, visit https://www1.nyc.gov/site/hra/help/legal-assistance.page or call Housing Court Answers at 212-962-4795.

Court Reopening

All courts are now open, except for the Harlem Community Justice Center Courthouse. All emergency applications for the Harlem Community Justice Center can be handled at the New York County Criminal Court, located at 100 Centre Street, Room 150. For more information, call 646-386-5730.

For temporary Courthouse closure and relocations alerts, visit: https://www.nycourts.gov/courts/nyc/civil/temp_close.shtml.