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Glossary of Legal Terms

Abatement
A reduction (of rent).

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Adjournment
A temporary postponement of the case until a future date.

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Affidavit
An affirmed statement made in writing and signed; if sworn, it must be notarized.

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Answer
A response by the respondent notifying both the Court and the petitioner (often, the landlord) exactly what the respondent’s reply is to the claims in the petition. It may contain a general denial, any defenses and any counterclaims.

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Counterclaim
A claim by a respondent to a petitioner, such as for money or repairs.

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Default Judgment
A judgment against the respondent as a result of his or her failure to appear or submit papers at an appointed time during the case.

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Garnish/garnishment
To seize a portion of wages or other property of a judgment debtor to repay the debt to the judgment creditor. The garnishing party notifies a third party, such as an employer or bank, to hold back something it has for the defendant-debtor.

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Levy
To take property in execution of a judgment.

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Money Judgment
A judgment for a certain amount of money.

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Multiple Dwelling Registration
A requirement that an apartment building with three or more individual units must be registered as a multiple dwelling unit and is thus subject to particular housing rules and regulations.

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Nonpayment Petition
The document filed by a landlord in Housing Court when a tenant does not pay the rent due.

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Notice of Eviction
The written notice from a City Marshal that warns the tenant that he or she can be evicted soon.

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Notice of Petition
A petitioner’s written notice delivered to the respondents stating when the court will hear the attached petition.

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Order to Show Cause
A direction from the Court to appear and explain why the relief requested should or should not be granted. Often used to try to stop an eviction, to force the
landlord to meet his or her part of an agreement or the judge’s order, or to bring the case back to the judge for any reason.

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Petition
In landlord-tenant cases, a paper filed in court and delivered to the respondents, stating what the petitioner requests from the court and the respondents.

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Possessory
Judgment A judgment for possession of residential or non-residential property.

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Prima
Facie The basic elements of the plaintiff’s case necessary to prove the “facts;” for example, proof of rental agreement, who are the tenants, landlords, etc. Without this information, the judge can dismiss the case.

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Service
The delivery of copies of legal documents to the respondent or other person to whom the documents are directed. For example, petitions, orders to show cause,
subpoenas, notices to quit the premises are legal documents that must be served.

The procedure for service of process is specifically set out in statutes.

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Stipulation
An agreement between the parties to settle all or part of the of Settlement case without additional hearings. The settlement must be approved by the Court, and if so, it becomes part of the Court’s order.

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Subpoena
A document used to demand information or to require a witness to testify in court.

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Use and Occupation
Payment to the landlord for the right to use and occupy the apartment after the landlord-tenant relationship has been terminated.

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Warranty
of Habitability A promise implied in every tenancy that the apartment will be clean and livable.

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