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Staving off a potential eviction

NYC Housing Court Practice/Procedures

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Staving off a potential eviction

Postby Longtimer » Tue Nov 21, 2017 2:57 am

Hello,
I'm not sure if my post should be in this forum or another, but I'll post here.

I've been a tenant in a rent-stabilized apartment for 20+ years. Currently, I am experiencing some financial difficulty and am behind on my rent. Right now, I owe the current rent plus 1-1/2 months of arrears.

The landlord and I agreed upon a payment plan via emails with their A/R person. I want to avoid Housing Court if at all possible. I was a little short on the day my first installment was due, so I asked for more time and was granted a few more days. I had a hard time accumulating the funds I needed but did drop off the agreed-upon amount in full, two days after the extended date. I then emailed my contact at the office to confirm that I had done so. I paid by money order.

I logged in later that day onto our resident website to check my account, and saw that the payment had not been entered - this didn't concern me too much because sometimes payments don't show up until a day or two later. HOWEVER, they DID add legal fees to my account, which tells me they started the process!

So, I have a few questions:
1.) Does the fact that Landlord's A/R person asked for the rent and we discussed a payment plan mean that a 3-day notice is not necessary and they can legally start with a petition?

2.) If I receive a 3-day notice or a petition, can I still negotiate with my landlord directly or is that not a good idea?

3.) Which is more advisable: to keep making payments or just buy the money orders and hold onto them to bring them with me to court?

4.) Won't the 1st installment payment I made show good faith, even though it was a few days late?

5.) I read somewhere on a lawyer's blog that I can go to Housing Court and ask for an adjournment/postponement in order to find and retain an attorney. They said this could buy me another month and a half to two months, to find an attorney and familiarize them with my situation, etc. - would you know if this is true? With the holidays coming, I imagine asking to postpone things might be a good idea right now, as there will surely be days the courts will need to be closed which would add even more time.

Really, all I need is more time -- I am owed some money which I know for certain is coming, and I will be able to pay off all arrears if given more time. Are there any other reasons I could ask for a delay, in case I cannot find a lawyer after all (I would need someone willing to work pro bono)?

Other issues with my landlord:
I never received my signed copy of my lease renewal this year, despite my having asked for it numerous times. This has never happened before.

The rest of my complaints have to do with the maintenance and cleanliness of the building, such as the appearance of rodents and roaches after never having that kind of problem for years. Conditions have deteriorated since the former super left and the new one is terrible.

Could I cite any of the above issues to delay eviction proceedings?

**To be honest, I am feeling like I am DONE, not only with this place but NYC. Would a situation like mine warrant asking my landlord to buy me out? Or is that rare when it comes to tenants in arrears? I don't know if my landlord does that or if he just waits for old-timers to keel over and die.

Any suggestions and advice are welcome. Thanks in advance!
Last edited by Longtimer on Tue Nov 21, 2017 5:38 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Longtimer
 
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Re: Staving off a potential eviction

Postby TenantNet » Tue Nov 21, 2017 8:22 am

In the future please make your posts much shorter. Tenants often throw in a lot of irrelevant stuff, and write books on speculation. Don't do that, please.

We can sympathize, but can't offer solutions for being short of funds. But anytime you deal with the LL, make sure you document everything, make copies of everything, including envelopes with postmarks. M.O.s must have written the month for which the rent is intended, i.e., "Rent for November 2017 only" and make a copy before sending it to the LL. For mailing, send certified or use a Certificate of Mailing (cheaper) and get a receipt from the USPS. Make copies of all that.

I find it better to send by mail so you have documentation, but that's your call. If you do drop it off with the LL's office, get a written receipt.

As for legal fees, they can only be assessed by a court order after a trial, and only if your original lease allows for that. They cannot add the provision to lease renewals. DO NOT ever pay any legal fees unless a judge has specifically ordered them.

A 3-day notice is always required as far as we know. Yes, you can always negotiate. If the case has already started (petition), it can always be dismissed or discontinued. Once the case has started, hold onto the M.O.s until the case is resolved, or the court orders rent to be paid. Make sure the court is aware that you have the money and are willing to make payments, but also - if you have any - that there are defenses to the claim for rent.

Yes, you can ask for time to get a lawyer, but generally that only works once, and some judges might order rent to be paid into court, a real hassle.

I can tell you that things slow to a crawl in Housing Court in December. First time cases get called, but are usually adjourned until after the holidays, and you don't even need to use the attorney excuse. (this is from my experience in Manhattan - other boroughs might be different). I've already heard that actual trials are now being postponed until January.

But unless you have real issues, try to work things out as best you can before getting to court. Getting more time can usually be done, but it depends on many factors. For a month or two should not be too difficult, but more than that, not so easy. There are other ways to slow things, i.e., make a motion that requires written submission by both parties. Unless you know how things work in court, get a lawyer to do that. But remember, making motions are not for gaming the system, but for asserting your rights.

For your other issues, that's the speculation I spoke about above, or they can be put in as defenses and counterclaims. Although the LLs failure to return a lease can impact the level of the legal rent he's demanding. Without the executed lease, the rent can't go up. If he's charged, and you've paid rent in excess of that, that can be an overcharge, or can be a defense against any rent claim. Some judges might say to take the overcharge claim to DHCR, but still, the LL must plead you have a valid lease; if you don't that can make a difference in the case.

For lawyers, you can always find them. Look at the tenant lawyers who advertise on the home page of this site (although yes, they do charge for their time). If you're that poor, go to Legal Aid/Services.

Unless you have a place you know you can go, then hold onto your RS apartment. They don't come along that easily anymore.
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Re: Staving off a potential eviction

Postby Longtimer » Tue Nov 21, 2017 2:51 pm

Hi and thank you for your prompt response. I apologize for having been so verbose - I thought some background might be helpful.

I wasn't asking for some kind of solution for being short of funds. I lost my job and am freelancing while looking for a new one. Freelancing means my pay comes from 30 to 60 days after doing the work, generally, and I am right now in that period of waiting for the money I am due while struggling with nothing in my pocket. There is also Con Ed to deal with.

I know that my being broke is not my LL's problem, but proposing a payment plan was the best way I thought I could deal with my arrears and I'm glad they accepted it, but disconcerted to see legal fees on my account. I am also expecting other monies I am owed to arrive around the new year or sometime in January, so I will be flush with funds by then and only need time.

This morning my online account still does not show the payment, but I received a "Thank you" email from the landlord's A/R person, so maybe that means they will accept it even though it was a few days late. I hope so! They did not say anything else.

As far as my rent, there have been no overcharges. I've not had an increase since the RS percentage has been zero for 1-yr. leases, and I've always only been charged the exact percentage for increases in the past. This LL does pretty much play by the book, and the only complaints I have is about the cleanliness and maintenance of the building.

Thanks again for your response - it was very helpful.
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Re: Staving off a potential eviction

Postby Longtimer » Wed Nov 22, 2017 4:03 pm

TenantNet wrote:A 3-day notice is always required as far as we know.

I always thought a 3-day Notice was required, too. The 3-Day Notice is essentially a demand for the rent - correct?

I've downloaded the NYC tenants Guide and read through a bit of it, but I do have questions. In the Guide, it states that the LL has to demand the rent, either verbally or in writing, before starting a non-payment case. It is worded in a way that sounds like a verbal request is equivalent to a 3-day Notice, and that they can go straight to filing a Petition if the demand for rent owed isn't met by the date in the demand.

It would also seem to me that my LL having agreed to a payment plan with designated dates for me to submit each installment would be the same as a rent demand.

Today my payment for the first installment of our agreement is showing in my account, so they accepted it and applied it to my arrears.

The legal fees were added to my account before they received my M.O. My thinking is that, whether it was a 3-Day notice OR a Petition that generated those legal fees, when I made a payment and they accepted it, that specific action would be null and void now - because I would simply go to Housing Court and give a defense that I'd made a payment, AND the amount they are due has changed.

So, I can probably rest a little easier now because they cannot start the eviction process unless and until I do not make the NEXT installment payment when that is due.

Do you think that sounds about right?
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Re: Staving off a potential eviction

Postby TenantNet » Wed Nov 22, 2017 4:09 pm

You've got to stop speculating - everything you just asked is speculation. As soon as I answer something, you'll come up with another wrinkle, just slightly different.

Wait, see what happens and take things one step at a time. Otherwise you will spend all your time thinking about all this, what if this? what if that?
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Re: Staving off a potential eviction

Postby Longtimer » Wed Nov 22, 2017 7:25 pm

TenantNet wrote:You've got to stop speculating - everything you just asked is speculation. As soon as I answer something, you'll come up with another wrinkle, just slightly different.

Wait, see what happens and take things one step at a time. Otherwise you will spend all your time thinking about all this, what if this? what if that?

Hmm, that's a little unfair, I think. I just want to be prepared. I'm terrified of being evicted. If I had asked questions without researching and trying to understand the procedure beforehand, I'd probably be scolded for not doing research, right? So, this is part of my research.

The fact is that legal fees appeared on my account after I made payment plan arrangements with my landlord's office, but before they received my first payment. Now, the payment has been acknowledged and applied to my arrears. I haven't been served any papers yet.

My assumption based on the above is that whatever process they started that caused legal fees added to my account is no longer applicable. I think that the only thing I need worry about right now is my next installment payment.

I just wanted some opinion on whether or not my thinking was on the right track, as far as understanding the process. Whoever wants to answer is welcome to speculate along with me! :wink:

I do have another question on procedure, not speculation. I am only trying to understand what can happen:
When a tenant is served with a 3-Day Notice, can they respond with a Motion to Dismiss? Or is a Motion to Dismiss only applicable if a Petition has been served, not a 3-Day Notice/rent demand?
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Re: Staving off a potential eviction

Postby TenantNet » Wed Nov 22, 2017 7:38 pm

You answered it - the only thing to worry about is the next payment. If an when anything else occurs, then you can deal with that. As we said before, legal fees can only be awarded by a court, and that is to the prevailing party in a court proceeding. You're not there yet. You can ignore the fees. Or you can tell the LL to suck it. They do this because they want to, and for no other reason.

A motion to dismiss is only applicable to court proceedings. A 3-day notice occurs before a proceeding is started.

With a 3 day notice, you can a) ignore it, b) pay it in full or partially - if it's a legal charge, or c) write the LL and argue with him/her.
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Re: Staving off a potential eviction

Postby Longtimer » Wed Nov 22, 2017 7:47 pm

Thank you for your very clear answer - it helps a lot.

BTW, I've always known that I don't have to pay legal fees. That wasn't a worry of mine at all. I only mentioned them because seeing them added to my account indicated to me that they had done something that they felt justified the fees. It signaled that some kind of procedure was afoot. Until I saw that my payment had been accepted, I was expecting a 3-Day Notice. Now, I'm not so worried.

Again, thank you.
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Re: Staving off a potential eviction

Postby TenantNet » Wed Nov 22, 2017 8:04 pm

You're reading all sorts of things into it. Don't do that. LLs are not rational.
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