How to win an HP Action in NYC Housing Court Against Slumlord?
December 9, 2016 7:30 PM   Subscribe

I live in an NYC rent stabilized apartment and I filed an HP Action against my slumlord because he shut our water off without notice for a day. I am also claiming harassment and retaliation. He turned it back on after I contacted a tenant's rights organizer. Court is in a few days and I want to win a rent abatement. No legal aid places in NYC are doing HP actions (I exhausted all options). I am terrified. What do I say before a judge to get a rent abatement?

He cut off our water because he got my rent overcharge complaint (he has illegally been jacking up the price for a long time) and because I refused to meet with him. He cornered my former roommate when she came to get her deposit and wouldn't let her leave but she is too scared to testify. I wona rent decrease that he won't honor. I called 311 a million times because of a boiler CO leak, rats, roaches, ceiling caving in, not giving us a legal renewal lease, etc, and he is retaliating because of that. If we move he can destabilize the place, so he wants me out. I can't afford to live there anymore but also I can't afford to move. Basically, how do I speak the legalese and get a rent abatement?
posted by Kombucha3452 to Law & Government (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You don't need to speak legalese. Don't try to do that if you're not comfortable with it. It sounds like you've done some form of research as to what the rent abatement requirements are. Just take the time to organize everything, issue by issue, clearly and be prepared to back it up.

You need to come prepared for court. Read this primer.

* Find every piece of documentation that ensures you've met the constructive notice requirement (as described in the primer). Whatever evidence you can have to back up the claims you've made here, by way of emails, letters, and telephone calls, photographs. Organize all of this in a folder so you can easily access them.
* Write down a timeline for yourself specific to each of the issues you have complained about. It can be as simple as:
* Discovered on X date
* Reported and gave constructive notice to landlord on Y date. [List evidence of notice]
* Details regarding repair attempts or refusal to repair, or retaliation, harassment.
* Details regarding reporting 311.


When you go to court, you tell the judge clearly and calmly that:
1) You are seeking a rent abatement because you believe the landlord has breached the warranty of habitability on a number of separate incidents. You are in court today because you had filed a rent overcharge complaint and your water was shortly shut off without notice.
2) You have documented with a timeline of all of those incidents with evidence that you have brought here to court.
3) You also have won a rent decrease previously that he refuses to honor,
The judge will ask you some questions. they may ask to see the timeline and your evidence. Leave out the accusations as to why you think he's doing this (unless directly asked). Be respectful and provide the information the judge requests.
posted by Karaage at 8:02 PM on December 9, 2016 [8 favorites]

Best answer: IANYL TINLA. My understanding is that NYC housing court is mostly tenant friendly. You've already done all the hardest things. Good for you! It sounds like you're organized and prepared. My main recommendation is to take your time and don't let anybody rush you. Take your time to make sure you understand what's being asked of you, and to start to organize your answer. Take your time to make sure you understand what's being offered to you, and if you think you need more time to think about it, ask for it. If you're feeling rushed and coerced, say so. Leave yourself plenty of time coming and going.

Do you have time to go into court before the court date? You can look around, figure out the physical space, get an idea of where you need to go. Mostly, see if you can track down from the volunteer lawyer program to talk to. Even if they can't see you all the way through the case or represent you, I bet they will hustle to see what they can do to help you, to give you a sense of what to expect, to look through your papers, etc. They may be able to do this the day of too! But you will be less stressed, I think, if you can go in before.

(In general, I would say be very very careful of agreeing to anything 'on the side' with the landlord or his lawyer. That is basically never favorable for an unrepresented party, in any court I've had any experience with).

Good luck! You're amazing for getting this far!
posted by Salamandrous at 8:30 PM on December 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

The volunteer lawyers are very helpful. There are two kinds of services--the volunteer lawyers at the Help Center will look over your papers and give you advice on the spot about how to deal with court ("limited representation"). To see one, all you have to do is show up at the scheduled clinic; the calendar is at Salamandrous's link. Sometimes they also have lawyers who will represent you on the day of court only, but that's harder to get.

Please also contact the Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force. They won't be able to help you in the moment, but it's important that you make a report so the city can track landlord misbehavior across the city.
posted by praemunire at 10:14 PM on December 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

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