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Procedure when landlord ignores stipulation

NYC Housing Court Practice/Procedures

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Procedure when landlord ignores stipulation

Postby CivilLitigator » Tue Jan 12, 2016 6:49 pm

I am a civil litigator who is representing a tenant in housing court on a pro-bono basis and I have a procedural question, as I am less familiar with the procedures in Housing Court. The landlord sued our client in 2014 for non-payment of rent, and we countered that necessary repairs had not been made. In 2015, we settled the case, paying the rent in exchange for a stipulation promising to make the repairs. The repairs were never made.

We recently filed an HP action based on the same repairs. We are planning to file a summary judgment motion for civil penalties, claiming that the 2015 settlement constitutes an "order" of the court to make repairs, and that civil penalties are owing from the date of the stipulation, regardless of how quickly the landlord makes repairs in the current matter. The landlord's attorney claimed that this was improper, and that we should have "opened up" the old case. In state supreme or federal court, we would never open up a closed case to sue on a breach of settlement; we would simply file a new action on the breach.

Has anyone experienced this? Any pitfalls? Does the landlord's lawyer have a point?
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Re: Procedure when landlord ignores stipulation

Postby TenantNet » Tue Jan 12, 2016 9:09 pm

Well first, understand we are not attorneys. We do have a fair amount of experience in Housing Court, mostly pro se. But perhaps not with the question you pose.

A stipulation generally binds both parties to certain actions. For the tenant, it means paying the back rent (or the negotiated amount). For the LL, it means conducting repairs. But what is often not understood is that if the tenant pays the rent and the LL does not do the repairs, this does not mean the tenant can start withholding rent again. The two are not tied together.

However, the tenant can seek orders to compel, a finding of contempt or - as you reveal, a motion for penalties.

Or, as you've discovered, you can file a HP Action. That is not tied to the earlier non-payment. Of course you can let the court know about the non-payment non-compliance.

Whether your motion for civil penalties is a new matter, or opening up the old case, in my mind doesn't really matter. But this is an area where I can't give you an answer. I will pose this question to some tenant attorneys who know the procedures.
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Re: Procedure when landlord ignores stipulation

Postby TenantNet » Wed Jan 13, 2016 4:21 am

I alerted your question to a tenant attorney. I will send a private mail to you with his reply.
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Re: Procedure when landlord ignores stipulation

Postby Sky » Thu May 05, 2016 12:50 am

TenantNet, would you care to share additional info on this? I think this is a fairly common scenario (LL with history of neglecting repairs also neglects subsequent stip to make repairs) and some conversation of possible remedies would be informative, understanding the disclaimer of course that it does not constitute legal advice.
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Re: Procedure when landlord ignores stipulation

Postby TenantNet » Fri May 06, 2016 8:06 am

In short, one should go back to court to enforce the stip. One can even seek an order finding contempt. Of course LLs will come up with any excuse - such as claiming the tenant denied access is the favorite. And of course judges will often give them even more time to comply.
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