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You Are Here: Housing > Nonpayment Case

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
(Click here 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 Petition. (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 petition (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!
(Click here for 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 (or dispossess).  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.  Click here 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?" ).  Click here 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.

Eviction

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?'")