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Words you might hear in housing court

Authored By: Legal Services NYC
Contents

Here are some commonly used words in housing court. Read them over to prepare for your court date.

311

This is a citywide telephone hotline. Tenants call 311 to report problems in their apartments such as no heat or hot water, water leaks, sewer backup, mold, garbage collection, bedbugs, power outages, and other bad conditions.

 

Adjourn or adjournment

Putting off or postponing a court case until another time. Judges may adjourn a case for many reasons including giving parties more time or finding a day when a trial can happen in a case.

 

Affidavit

A written and sworn statement. When you sign an affidavit, you swear that the information in it is true.

 

Affidavit of Service

A signed statement that a document in a court case was “served” upon, or given to, the other party to the court case. Service can be by certified mail or by personally handing documents to the other party.

 

Certificate of Occupancy

A document issued by the City outlining the layout of a building and saying that the building is in good enough condition for people to live there.

 

Contempt

If a person disobeys a court order or interferes with court proceedings, the judge will hold that person “in contempt” to punish them. Filing a contempt motion is how you let the court know that a party has disobeyed a court order.

 

Court attorney

A lawyer who sits in the courtroom and works with the judge to help resolve cases.

 

Court officer

A person in a uniform who sits or stands in the courtroom and is responsible for court security and keeping order in the courtroom.

 

Default

When one side does not show up in court, it is called a default. In a repairs case, if the tenant defaults, the court can dismiss the case (end the case). If the landlord defaults, the court can order the landlord to make repairs.

 

Dismiss (or dismissing a case)

If at any stage in the court process, a party loses their case, the judge will say the case is dismissed. When a case is dismissed, it is over and the party bringing the case has lost.

 

Department of Buildings

NYC agency that enforces rules about the construction and maintenance of buildings.

 

Evidence

Materials that are shown to a judge or jury during a court case to help decide who should win the case. Evidence can include photos, documents, videos and witness testimony. .

 

Filing

Giving a document to the court to make it part of the court case (the court “file”) or to start a court case.

 

Harassment

When a landlord unlawfully tries to make a tenant leave their apartment or otherwise give up their rights. Harassment can be:

  • using force or threatening to use force;
  • interrupting or discontinuing essential services like heat, hot water or electricity;
  • starting court cases without legal basis;
  • removing your possessions from an apart ment;
  • discriminating against a tenant for their race, sex, religion, immigration status, or other protected categories;
  • removing the apartment door or changing the lock without giving the tenant a key;
  • other acts that interfere with the peace of a tenant, such as construction at late hours;
  • repeatedly making “buy out” offers.

 

Hearing

Where a judge hears evidence and makes a decision required in a case.

 

Housing Preservation and Development (HPD)

NYC agency responsible for enforcing state and city law on housing safety. HPD responds to 311 complaints about housing conditions. HPD can issue violations, make repairs if the landlord doesn’t, and bring HP Cases against landlords.

 

HP case (also known as "Repairs Case")

A case a tenant starts against a landlord to get the landlord to make repairs, provide services, or stop harassment. HP is short for Housing Part.

 

Index number

The number issued by the court which is used to identify a court case. For example, “L&T 52363-2015.” “L&T” stands for Landlord and Tenant, and the last part of the index number is the year the case was filed.

 

Inquest

An inquest is like a trial that happens when the other side does not show up in court. At an inquest, the judge hears evidence to help them decide the outcome of the case.

 

Inspection report

After you start your HP Case and fill out an Inspection Request, an inspector from HPD will come to your apartment to look at the conditions. The Inspection Report is the list of problems that an inspector prepares after looking at the conditions in the apartment. It will be provided to you at the first court date in your case.

 

Inspection request (or tenant’s request for inspection)

A form that you fill out with your Petition where you list the conditions in your apartment that you want HPD to inspect. The form says “Tenant’s Request for Inspection” at the top.

 

Judgment

A decision by the court. A judgment may dismiss a case, order a party to pay money or order a party to do something.

 

Managing agent

A person who oversees or runs a building. The name and the address of the managing agent of a building can be found on the HPD website.

 

Order and Notice of Violation

An order that HPD or the court can issue requiring a landlord to repair problems in a tenant’s apartment. It may be issued by the court on default (after one party fails to come to court), or on consent (where the parties agree to the order).

 

Order to Show Cause

A paper that can be used to start a court case or to force the parties to come to court in a case. After an order to show cause is filed with the court and signed by the judge, it requires the other party (usually, the landlord) to come to court on the next court date in the case.

 

Part

A courtroom in the courthouse is called a “Part” and it is usually identified by a letter. For example, the courtroom handling repairs cases in Bronx Housing Court is called “Part H.”

 

Party

One side in a case. In an HP (repairs) case, the person that starts the case (usually the tenant) is the Petitioner, and the person or company being sued is the Respondent. HPD is also a party in an HP case.

 

Party

One side in a case. In housing court, the party that starts the case is called the Petitioner, and the party that is being sued is called the Respondent.

 

Petition

The paper that a party files in court to start a housing court case. The Petition describes what the person starting the case wants from the person who is being sued.

 

Petitioner

The person who starts the court case. In an HP (repairs) case, the tenant is usually the Petitioner.

 

Poor Person’s Relief (“Poor Person’s Affidavit”)

If you do not have enough money to pay court fees, you can ask the court for permission to start a case without paying court fees. To do so, you have to explain to the court why you are unable to pay.

 

Respondent

The person who is being sued in a court case. In an HP (repairs) case, the Respondent is usually the landlord and/or the managing agent.

 

Service

Delivery of court documents by one party to another.

Once a Petition is filed with the court, it must be served on the parties being sued, that is, the landlord, the managing agent, and HPD.

 

Self-Represented Litigant (also known as "Pro Se")

Individuals who do not have a lawyer representing them in their court case.

 

Settlement

A final agreement that ends a court case.

 

Stipulation or Consent Order

A formal agreement between the parties resolving a case or some issue in a case without a court hearing.

 

Subpoena

A court order requiring a person to show up in court to give testimony and produce documents.

 

Testimony

The evidence that a witness gives, usually by speaking in court.

 

Trial

Examination of all the parties’ evidence and the law by a judge in order to make a final decision in a case.

 

Violation

Bad conditions in an apartment that violate the law. After inspection, HPD will list all violations it finds in an Inspection Report. You can get a list of all violations in your apartment by visiting HPD Online

 

Warranty of Habitability

The legal requirement that a landlord must keep a tenant’s apartment in good repair, or in a livable condition.

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Last Review and Update: Jun 02, 2019
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