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How to Force Your Landlord to Make Repairs

If your landlord sues you for nonpayment of rent and you have conditions that need repair in your apartment, be sure to tell Clerk when you file your answer When you go before the Judge you should tell the Judge about any repairs that are needed in your apartment or your building. If necessary repairs have not been made, the landlord may not have lived up to his or her obligations under what is called the “warranty of habitability.” This means the landlord has not kept the apartment and the public areas of the building up to standard living conditions. The Judge may reduce the amount of back rent that you have to pay because of this. This is called an “abatement.” You can also ask the Judge to order the landlord to make repairs. (See p. 18, Section 6A, “How to Request a Housing Inspection “)

If as part of the nonpayment case the Judge agrees that you are entitled to repairs or services, the Judge may also order the landlord to make repairs or give you services by a certain date. If the landlord fails to make repairs or give you services by the date the Judge ordered, you should go to court and ask for an Order to Show Cause. (See p. 16, Section 5B, “Order to Show Cause “). The landlord will have to explain why he or she did not make the repairs the court ordered.

You can also sue your landlord to get repairs made. Before starting any action in Housing Court, tell your landlord and superintendent about any problems in your apartment or building. If possible, write a letter to your landlord and superintendent, preferably sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you have proof of this. Include a list of the problems and tell them how long each problem has existed. Keep a copy of the letter and the certified mail receipt.

If your landlord refuses to make repairs, you can bring one of the following actions:

Housing Part (“HP”) Proceeding:
If your apartment needs repairs, you can bring an “HP” case. To begin the case, you must buy an index number to file your case in Court.

There is a filing fee which must be paid in cash or by money order made out to “Clerk of the Civil Court.” If you cannot afford the filing fee, you can ask the Court Clerk for papers to fill out so you can start the case without paying the fee. After completing these papers, a Judge will decide whether you can begin your case without paying the fee or not. Fill out the HP proceeding papers explaining what needs to be repaired in your apartment and in the public areas of your building. The court may set dates for a housing inspector to visit your building and for a court hearing.

Before you start an HP action, talk to the other tenants in your building. If there are building-wide problems, you and the other tenants may also be able to get help in getting your landlord to make repairs from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (“HPD”), Tenant Assistance Unit, or from other organizations listed
in Section 7B “Where Can I Go for Help ” (p. 20).

7A Proceeding:

If your building has serious problems, such as frequent lack of heat and hot water or
lack of basic maintenance or services, and not just problems in one apartment, or if your landlord is harassing you, you should consider getting together with other tenants and bringing a 7A Proceeding. In a 7A Proceeding, the tenants in a building ask the court to remove the landlord as active manager of the building and appoint an administrator who is supervised by the Court and who will collect the rent monies and use them to make repairs and to put the building back in shape. The landlord keeps legal ownership, but no longer has the power to operate the building. If the 7A administrator succeeds in repairing the building, the court can give control of the building back to the landlord.

At least one-third of all the tenants in the building must agree to bring a 7A Proceeding. Often, a tenants’ association can help in getting enough tenants together to bring a 7A Proceeding. You and the other tenants in your building may be able to get information from the Resource Center in Housing Court, the HPD Tenant Assistance Unit or other organizations listed in Section 7B, “Where Can I Go for Help ” (p. 20).


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