What Happens If I Go to Trial?

When you enter the Trial Part courtroom, tell the court clerk or the court officer your name and the name of your case. If there is space in the courtroom, wait there to see how other tenants and lawyers talk to the Judge, try to settle cases, or actually do a trial or hearing.

When your case is called, answer “landlord” and go before the Judge. If you need more time to get your documents or witnesses you will need for the trial, you can ask the Trial Part Judge to put off your case. But, this may be very hard to do since cases that are sent to the Trial Part are supposed to be ready to go to trial. (See “What Do I Bring to Court to Prove My Case? ” on page 8 regarding some of the evidence you may need at trial). If you are not ready to proceed with all of your documents and witnesses, the Judge may dismiss your case and you will have to start all over again.

The Judge will ask you and the tenant some questions and may again try to settle the case. If you do not settle the case and both sides are ready, the Judge will probably proceed with a trial of your case that day.

It is important to remember that during the trial, you should not argue with or address your objections, comments or arguments to the tenant. Everything should be addressed to the Judge in an effort to convince the Judge to decide in your favor. In the same way, the tenant should address his or her arguments, comments or objections to the Judge rather than to you.

In addition, neither you nor the tenant should interrupt each other unless you are making an objection during the trial. Finally, although you might get frustrated or upset during the trial because of something that happens, you should remember that shouting or talking in a way that might be seen as disrespectful will not help your case. Try to remain calm and courteous while you tell your story to the Judge in a clear and persuasive way.

At trial, the landlord’s case is usually presented first, unless the tenant has started the case. All of your witnesses will be asked to swear or affirm that they will tell the truth. What the witness says to the court is called “testimony”. You may want to testify as a witness. When you want to tell something to the Judge or present your side, then you are a witness for your case and you will request that you take the stand. You will be asked to swear or affirm that you will tell the truth. Since you are not a lawyer, you should simply tell the Judge the facts of your case in a simple, straightforward way. You will be able to tell your side and present all the evidence you need to prove your case (See “What Do I Bring to Court to Prove My Case? ” on page 8).

During the presentation of the landlord’s case, the tenant can “object” to questions that are being asked of a witness. The tenant can object to documents you are asking the Judge to review. If a witness does not have personal knowledge of something he or she is talking about, but is only repeating what someone else told him or her, that testimony is not allowed because it is “hearsay.” If a government document is not certified or if it is not an original or has been changed, it may not be acceptable. Also, if the document or testimony of a witness is irrelevant and has nothing to do with the court case, the tenant can successfully object. You may not introduce written statements from absent witnesses, even if they are notarized. After your witnesses finish testifying, the tenant can ask your witnesses questions about their testimony. That is called “cross examination.”

After your case is over, the tenant will have a chance to present his or her case. The tenant may testify and present other witnesses or evidence to the Judge. The same rules that apply to you apply to the tenant. If the tenant attempts to present any information that you think is not allowed, you may raise your concern by saying “objection.” The Judge will then decide whether or not to see the document or hear the evidence. If there is something you do not understand, ask the Judge to explain it to you. Although the Judge cannot give you legal advice, the Judge will explain procedure and rules that must be followed during your trial.


In nonpayment cases:

  • If the Judge finds that the tenant owes rent, the Judge will issue a judgment in your favor. The Judge will give the tenant five days to pay that amount. If the tenant pays the full amount within the five days, the case is over. You must accept the rent money within the five days.
  • If the rent money is not paid within the five days, you may have a City Marshal ask for a warrant of eviction to evict the tenant from the apartment. You can find a listing of City Marshals in the yellow pages of the telephone book. You may not evict the tenant by yourself. New York law requires that a City Marshal carry out the eviction. The Marshal will serve the tenant with a Marshal’s notice of eviction (formerly called a 72 hour notice of eviction).
  • When the City Marshal serves the tenant with a warrant of eviction, the tenant may come back to the court to ask for more time. If this happens, you will be served with an “Order to Show Cause” (See “What is an Order to Show Cause? ” on page 15). The Order to Show Cause will tell you to come back to court on a specific day. Make sure you appear on the date specified; otherwise, the tenant may be able to prolong the eviction and you may have to get a new warrant of eviction all over again.


In Holdover Cases:

  • If the Judge finds that you have proven your case, the Judge may give the tenant some time to leave or time to cure. However, the tenant will have to pay rent (called “use and occupancy”) or otherwise be evicted earlier. When the tenant’s time is up, if they have not moved, you may obtain a warrant of eviction from a City Marshal. You can find a listing of City Marshals in the yellow pages of the telephone book. You may not evict the tenant by yourself. New York law requires that a City Marshal carry out the eviction.
  • When the City Marshal serves the tenant with a warrant of eviction, the tenant may come back to the court to ask for more time. If this happens, you will be served with an “Order to Show Cause” (See “What is an Order to Show Cause? ” below). The Order to Show Cause will tell you to come back to court on a specific date. Make sure you appear on that day; otherwise, the tenant may be able to prolong the eviction and you may have to get a new warrant of eviction all over again.


You may obtain information on how to obtain a warrant of eviction and about City Marshals from a Housing Court Counselor.