What Do I Do When I Go to Court?

GET TO COURT EARLY!

Leave plenty of time to get through security at the entrance of the courthouse. There are free childcare centers located in the Bronx, New York and Queens Housing Court buildings where you may leave young children while your case is being heard. On your first court date, you must be in the courtroom that you were told to go to by the Clerk (in a nonpayment case) or that was indicated in the Notice of Petition (in a holdover case). Remember that court may be an all day affair. The first courtroom you go to is usually called a Resolution Part. The Resolution Part is a courtroom where the landlord and tenant have a chance to discuss and try to settle the case. The Resolution Part has a Housing Court Judge, two court attorneys, a court clerk, and a court officer. The Resolution Part oversees settlement negotiations, pre-trial motions, and enforces settlement agreements that were ordered by the court.

What Should I Do When I Go to the Resolution Part?

1. Find your name on the calendar, usually posted in the hallway outside the courtroom. Write down the calendar number of your case.

2. Tell the court clerk or officer that you are the tenant in the case and give them the calendar number. Let him or her know if you need an interpreter or if you have an application to make before the Judge.

3. Ask the court clerk if you also have to check or circle your name on a list of cases.

4. Be seated in the courtroom, or stay near the courtroom so you can hear when your case is called.

5. Silence is required in the courtroom.

6. You are free to try to settle the case with your landlord or your landlord’s attorney, but you do not have to speak with him or her without the Judge or the court attorney being present.

7. If you decide to speak with your landlord but would like the Court Attorney to be present and lead the conference tell the Court Clerk.

8. In some counties, mediators are available who will facilitate a settlement with your landlord. Let the Clerk know that you would like to have a mediator deal with your case.

9. After you settle the case, and even if you do not settle the case, you will be brought before the judge. If there was some reason that kept you from settling the case, you should tell the judge, as he or she might be able to make a suggestion or propose something that may be acceptable to both you and the landlord.

What Should I do When My Case is Called?

Each case will be called by the Judge or the court attorney.

1. When your case is called, the landlord and tenant will meet with the Judge or the court attorney.

2. In a nonpayment case, your written answer or the record of your oral answer should be in the court file; in a holdover case, if you served and filed a written answer, it should be in the court file. The Judge or court attorney should look at your answer. You can ask the Judge to add other defenses to your answer.

3. If your apartment needs repairs you can ask for an inspection. (See p. 18, Section 6A, “How to Request a Housing Inspection“)

4. If you need time to get an attorney or documents, or if you are not ready to discuss your case, you can ask to come back on a later date. That is called an “adjournment.”

5. The Judge can make you deposit the rent the landlord claims is owed as of the date the court papers were served if you request two adjournments or if the case has been in court for more than 30 days.

6. If you are not able to settle your case with the landlord before being called by the Judge or the court attorney, tell the Judge or the court attorney your side of the case and whether you disagree with something the other side says. Sometimes the Judge or the court attorney is able to help you and your landlord reach an agreement.

7. If you are able to settle your case with your landlord either before or after you meet with the Judge or court attorney, a Stipulation of Settlement will be written. (See p. 11, Section 4C, “Settlements and Stipulations“)

You will then go before the Judge with the stipulation. The Judge should explain what is in the stipulation and ask you if you have any questions about the stipulation. Be sure to ask questions if you do not understand anything in the stipulation. If you disagree with anything in the stipulation or feel that you were forced into agreeing to the stipulation, tell the Judge. No one can force you to settle a case. If the case is not settled, it will be sent to Part X to be scheduled for trial on that day or another day. The trial will take place in a different courtroom, called a “Trial Part.” At a trial, the landlord will have to prove his or her case and you will have to prove your defenses or claims. (See p. 12, Section 4D, “Trials “)

If the case is adjourned or scheduled for trial on another date, be sure to come back to Court on that date and go to the courtroom you were told to go to by the Court. Follow the same instructions given above about checking your name on the calendar and checking in with the court clerk. If the case has been adjourned for trial, be sure that you come back to Court with all of your evidence and witnesses. (See p. 12, Section 4D, “Trials “)

If you get any papers from the landlord or from the Court that tell you to come back to Court on a different date, do not ignore them. Be sure you go back to court on that date.

It is important that you read any papers that you receive because you may have to respond to them before going back to court, or when you go back to court.

If you have any questions about the papers or about what will happen when you go back to Court, you can speak to an attorney in the Resource Center who will provide information as to how the trial will be run.