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 “tenant” and go before the Judge. The Judge will ask you and the landlord or his or her attorney 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 hold a trial of your case that day.
Be sure to have all witnesses and documents ready before you go out to trial. If you need to have the case put off in order to get documents or witnesses you will need for the trial, you can ask the Trial Part 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. For nonpayment proceedings, bring all rent receipts and statements that you have in your possession.
You will be able to refer to the court inspection, if there is one, to help you talk about the conditions in your apartment and you can also use photographs to help the Judge understand how bad the problems are. (See “What I Should Bring to Court? ”
page regarding some of the evidence you may need at a trial), During the trial, you should not argue with or address your objections, comments or arguments to the landlord or his or her attorney. Everything should be addressed to the Judge to try to convince the Judge to decide in your favor. In the same way, the landlord or his or her attorney should not address his or her arguments, comments or objections to you, but to the Judge. Neither you nor the landlord should interrupt each other unless you are making an objection during the trial. 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 will be presented first. All witnesses will be asked to swear or affirm that they will tell the truth. What the witness says to the court is called “testimony.” During the landlord’s case, you can “object” to questions that are being asked of a witness or to documents the landlord introduces. You can “object” if you think there is a good reason why the testimony or the document should not be allowed by the Judge, not just because you disagree with it. You can object if the witness does not have personal
knowledge of the things he or she is talking about, but is only repeating what someone else told him or her (this is called “hearsay”). You can also object if you think that the testimony or document has nothing to do with the case (this is called “irrelevant”). You can object if a government document is not certified or if a document is not an original or has been changed.
After each of the landlord’s witnesses finishes testifying, you can ask him/her questions about the testimony. This is called “cross-examination.”
After the landlord puts on his or her case, you will have a chance to present your case, including testifying on your own behalf and presenting other witnesses or evidence to the Judge. You must bring all evidence and witnesses to court on the day of the trial. (See p. 8, Section 4A, “What to Bring to Court ” regarding some of the evidence you may need at a trial) The Judge will not accept written statements, even if they are notarized, from your witnesses. Your witnesses must appear in person to testify. However, the Judge will accept public records if they are certified by the government agency that issued them, for example, printouts from the Department of Social Services (DSS), the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (DHPD), or the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR).
The landlord or his or her lawyer may “object” to things that you or your witnesses say, or to documents or photographs that you try to give to the Judge. If you do not understand the landlord’s objection, ask the Judge to explain it. If the Judge agrees with the landlord’s objection to your testimony or other evidence (that’s called “sustaining” the objection), you or your witness may not be able to tell that part of your story to the Judge or you may not be able to give a particular document or photograph to the Judge. Therefore, it is important that you try to understand what is going on to the best of your ability.
All witnesses, including you, will be asked to swear or affirm that they will tell the truth. The Judge will listen to you and your witnesses, and will look at documents, photographs, and other evidence before making a decision. Tell the Judge the facts of your case in a simple, straightforward way. Think of it as trying to tell a story to someone. The important thing is for you and your witnesses to tell the Judge the facts of your story in a clear, organized and understandable way.
The Judge cannot give you legal advice about your case, but he or she can explain what is going on, and the procedures and rules that must be followed at a trial.
What to Do After a Final Judgment Has Been Made in a Nonpayment Case:
If the Judge finds that you owe rent, then he or she will issue a judgment in favor of the landlord for the amount of rent and will usually give you only five days to pay that amount.
If you pay the full amount to the landlord within that time, the case is over. If the landlord refuses to accept the rent within those five days, you may pay the judgment amount by bank or certified check or money order to the Clerk of the Civil Court. The check or money order should be made payable to the “New York City Department of Finance.”
If you cannot pay the full amount of the judgment within five days, the landlord can have a City Marshal ask for a warrant of eviction. Before your eviction, the City Marshal is required to serve you with a notice of eviction. (See p. 15, Section 5A, “Notice of Eviction “)
If you need more time to pay the full judgment amount, do not wait until you get the Marshal’s Notice of Eviction to go to court to ask for an Order to Show Cause. (See p. 16, Section, “Order to Show Cause “) However, it may be difficult to get a Judge to sign an Order to Show Cause to give you more time to pay the judgment unless you can deposit the entire amount of the judgment with the Court. If the reason you cannot pay the judgment amount on time is because, through no fault of yours, the Department of Social Services has delayed in giving you the money, be sure to put that fact in your Order to Show Cause along with any supporting documentation. Also include proof of any available funds.
What To Do After a Final Judgment Has Been Made in a Holdover Case:
If the Judge finds that the landlord has proven his or her case, that is, that you have broken important terms of your lease or that the other reasons stated by the landlord for evicting you are serious, you may be given time to correct the problem. If you correct the problem within the amount of time the Judge gives you (usually ten days), the case is over and you can remain in your apartment.
If you do not correct the problem within the time given or if the law does not give you time to correct a problem after trial, the Judge may order you to move out of your apartment. In most cases, the Judge has the power to give you up to six months to move if you pay a fair “use and occupancy” (usually the rent amount) during that time. In general, you will get two to three months to move at first. If you have not
moved within that time and want more time, you must go back to Court for an Order to Show Cause to get the additional time. (See p. 16, Section 5B, “Order to Show Cause ” )
You may have to convince the Judge that you really have tried to find another apartment in order to get the additional time. Keep all ads for apartments that you tried to get, with dates and notes like “already taken,” “too small” or “in bad neighborhood” to show to the Judge. The Judge may give you extra time to move, but almost never more than a total of six months. When your time to move is up, the landlord can get a City Marshal to serve a notice of eviction to you and then evict you.
During the time that you stay in the apartment you will probably be ordered to pay an amount of money to the landlord, but now it is called “use and occupancy” or “U & O.” The Judge will tell you how much “U & O” to pay. It will usually be the same amount as your rent was, but it is possible it will be set based on the market value of the apartment. The Judge may allow the landlord to evict you if the U & O is not paid on time.