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A non-payment case is brought by a landlord to collect unpaid rent.
A tenant may be evicted for non-payment of rent.
Here are some important information for a non-payment case:
The demand for rent
to view a
sample demand for rent
Before you can be sued, the landlord or someone working for the
landlord must demand the overdue rent from you
and warn you that, if you do not pay, you can be evicted.
If your lease requires that this kind of demand be given in writing,
then it must be in writing.
If it is in writing, this demand must be served the same way as the
Notice of Petition
(sometimes called a dispossess) and
(See "How Are Legal Papers 'Served'?").
Delivery of court papers
If you do not pay the rent after the demand for rent is made, the landlord can file a
nonpayment petition against you in Housing Court.
The Court Clerk will mail you a post card when the landlord's petition is filed
telling you to promptly come to court.
The notice of petition and
(usually the front and back of the same page) must also be served
on you in one of the ways described in the section,
"How Are Legal Papers 'Served'?"
Go to Housing Court!
directions to Housing Court
When you receive the nonpayment petition, go right away to
the Landlord-Tenant Clerk's Office in the Housing Court.
The address of the Court will be indicated on the
notice of petition
You need to go to Housing Court to file an answer
to your petition, or to file an
Order to Show Cause,
if you have received a notice of eviction.
Free day care at Housing Court
If you have young children, you should check to see
whether the Housing Court in your borough has day care.
If it does, you should get to court before your scheduled time so you have time to
leave your children at day care. Day care is free of charge.
How to answer the nonpayment petition
The easiest way to answer is to go to the Landlord-Tenant Clerk and have them put in
an answer for you. It is possible to put in your own answer in writing,
but it is far more complicated and requires much more work.
If you need help in answering the petition,
there are posters on the wall in every Landlord-Tenant Clerk's Office
which will give you information on how to answer a non-payment petition.
to see the
form the Clerk will use so you can prepare your answer. (PDF Reader required.)
When you get to Landlord-Tenant Clerk's Office,
you should stand on the line for filing an answer.
When you get to the Clerk's window, tell the Clerk what your answer is.
The Clerk will help you. If one of the reasons you didn't pay the rent is
because your apartment needs repairs, be sure to ask the Clerk for a housing inspection.
(See "How Do I Request a Housing Inspection?" ).
to see the
form the Clerk will use to prepare your answer. (PDF Reader required.)
What you might say in your answer
You can defend yourself against an eviction by showing any of the following
(NOTE that this is not a complete list of all possible defenses):
- Improper Service:
- Improper Parties:
- You are listed by the wrong name on the court papers.
- The person suing you in this case is not your landlord.
- Rent Issues:
- You were never asked for the rent.
- You have already paid all or part of the rent.
- The landlord is suing for the wrong amount of rent.
- The landlord owes you money because of a rent overcharge.
- You tried to pay the rent, but your landlord refused to accept it.
- Apartment Issues:
- Your apartment or building needs repairs for conditions
(be sure to indicate all repairs and services that are not being provided.
[See also "How Can I Force My Landlord to Make Repairs?"]).
- You receive Public Assistance and there are Housing Code violations
in your apartment or building.
- Your apartment is an illegal apartment.
- The landlord waited too long to sue you for nonpayment of rent.
If you think the landlord has waited too long to sue you (generally, longer than 3 months)
so that the amount you owe would be so great that you would not have enough money to pay,
you may have a defense called "stale rent."
This defense can limit the amount of unpaid rent that you must pay in order to
avoid being evicted, but it is usually very hard to prove.
If you do not answer the petition
or do not go to court on your court date, you can be EVICTED.
If you do not answer the petition on time, whether or not you received it,
or you do not go to court on your court date, the landlord can get a final judgment
and then have a City Marshal serve you with a "notice of eviction."
(See "What is a 'Notice of Eviction'?")
If you receive a "notice of eviction,"
go right away to the Landlord-Tenant Clerk's office and ask for
an "Order to Show Cause."
(See "What Is an 'Order to Show Cause?'")