Veterans and eviction: Protections for tenants who are serving in the military
There are certain laws that are designed to help protect individuals who are serving in the military, and their dependents, from eviction. Some of these rules may affect a landlord's ability to evict you whether or not you, or a family member, are in the military.
1. Non-military affidavits
What is a non-military affidavit and how can it help a tenant in an eviction case?
If a landlord brings an eviction case against a tenant and the tenant does not answer the case or show up in court, this is called a "default." The landlord automatically wins in this case and can ask the court for an Order to evict the tenant. However, before being allowed to evict ANY tenant based on their default, the landlord must prove to the Court that the tenant is not in the military. This rule is to protect tenants who couldn't come to court because they are serving in the military.
In order to prove that the tenant is not in the military, the landlord must submit a "non-military affidavit" to the court. A non-military affidavit is a sworn statement that the landlord knows that the tenant is not in the military. For example, the affidavit could say that the landlord spoke with the tenant or the tenant's neighbors, looked up the tenant's military record, or observed that the tenant is elderly (with approximate age listed) or sick. The affidavit should contain the names and descriptions of people interviewed and a description of the location where the interview took place.
If the court is satisfied with this affidavit, the court may allow for an eviction of the tenant. However, if the landlord does not file a non-military affidavit with the court, or if the court is not satisfied with the affidavit, the judge should not allow the landlord to evict ANY tenant, whether or not they actually are in the military.
When is the non-military affidavit required to be made?
A non-military affidavit must be made no more than thirty 30 days before the landlord asks for a default judgment. If the affidavit is made more than 30 days before the court receives the application for the default judgment, that application must be brought to the attention of the judge.
2. Other protections
If I am on active military duty and my landlord is trying to evict me, what kind of help can I or my family get?
A judge can appoint a lawyer to represent you in the case. The judge can also ask the landlord to post a bond (a certain sum of money) to protect your interest. In addition, the judge can put off your case for up to three months if being in the military has affected your ability to pay rent.
Can I get out of my lease if I need to?
Yes, if you are on active military duty, you are legally permitted to cancel your lease before the end of its term. You can also get out of your lease if you have received orders for a change of station.
What should I bring with me to court?
You should bring your military or military dependent ID card and a copy of the paper calling you to active duty. If you do not have these documents, you can contact the Fiscal Officer of the service member's unit, or call the following numbers for assistance:
- Army Emergency Relief: (718) 630-4710
- Navy and Marines Emergency Relief: (718) 876-6245/6246
- Air Force Family Aid: (609) 724-3154
- Reserve Civilian Job Rights: (800) 336-4590
Where do I report on the day of the court proceeding?
A special Military Part has been set up for these cases. You should be sure to let the judge, the clerk, the landlord, and the landlord's attorney know that you are in the military or a dependent of someone who is in the military.
What if I did not appear in court and a default judgment was entered against me?
You or a representative should go to court as soon as possible to get an order to show cause and ask that the case be reopened. Bring copies of the documents listed above to prove to the court that you were an active member of the military or military dependent at the time you defaulted, and copies of anything related to defenses that you have to the case.
Is there anything else that can be done to protect my rights as a tenant?
Housing court can be complicated, and each person's situation is different. For this reason, written materials cannot take the place of direct legal assistance from an attorney. If your landlord brings you to court, or if you need legal help or advice, you can go to lawhelpny.org for a complete referral directory of free legal services, or call the Association of the Bar of the City of New York at (212) 626-7373. In addition, as stated earlier, a person who is on active military duty and that person's dependents can ask the judge to appoint a lawyer to represent you.
Disclaimer: This content is offered only as a public service and does not constitute legal advice. You should contact an attorney who is knowledgeable in this area to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.