Settlement and Stipulation checklists for tenants in NYC Housing Court
Below are checklists of things litigants should keep in mind when entering negotiations with their landlord about settling their cases for non-payment of rent and a checklist of things to consider including in stipulations. A stipulation is a written agreement that sets out how the landlord and tenant resolve their dispute, and usually follows the negotiations.
Right to Conference the Case
You can come to a decision about the case with your landlord or your landlord’s attorney in the hallway. But you can also ask for the court attorney or the Judge to be present when you speak with the landlord or landlord’s attorney.
Right to Request Accommodations
If you have a disability, you can ask for accommodations. Speak to the court attorney or housing court clerk.
Right to ask for an Interpreter
If you do not speak English well, ask for an interpreter.
Request to Speak to a Court Attorney
If you do not understand what the landlord’s attorney is asking in the negotiation, ask to speak to a court attorney.
If you and the landlord’s attorney are arguing or the attorney is rude or ignores you, ask to speak to a court attorney.
If you feel that the landlord’s attorney is pressuring you into making a decision, ask to speak to a court attorney.
The landlord’s attorney is not allowed to give you legal advice. The landlord’s attorney may not be willing to talk about problems with the apartment other than your non-payment of rent. This means that if you have something that needs to be fixed or a problem with your landlord, the landlord’s attorney may not be willing to talk about it. However, if you mentioned these issues on your answer, they will have to talk about them. If they refuse, ask to speak to a court attorney.
If the landlord’s attorney is refusing to put an oral agreement in writing, or telling you one thing but writing another, ask to speak to a court attorney.
What is a Stipulation of Settlement?
If you are able to settle your case with your landlord either before or after you meet with the Judge or the court attorney, a Stipulation of Settlement will be written. You will then go before the Judge with the stipulation. The Judge should explain what is in the stipulation and ask you if you have any questions about the stipulation.
No One Can Force You to Settle a Case
If you disagree with anything in the stipulation or feel that you were forced into agreeing to the stipulation, tell the Judge. No one can force you to settle a case.
Use the Court’s Stipulation Form
Ask to use the court’s stipulation form, not the form provided by the landlord’s attorney.
Understanding your stipulation
If you have any questions about the stipulation, you should not sign it until a court attorney or a judge explains all the parts of the stipulation to you.
If there is an issue about repairs, the stipulation should include dates and times for repairs to be made and the date that the repairs will be finished.
Rent Waivers for Repair Issues
If the landlord agrees to waive (not collect) some of the rent owed because of problems with the apartment, the stipulation should state the amount waived and the time period covered.
Paying in Installments
If the stipulation sets up an installment plan for you to pay back rent over time, make sure that you are able to make the payments by the dates listed.
If you are expecting rent money from the Department of Social Services (DSS), the stipulation should say that you applied for benefits and should set a realistic payment due date that accounts for possible delays in getting the money from DSS.
Allow Enough Time to Move, if Needed
If you have agreed to move out of the apartment, the stipulation should give you enough time to find a place to move.
If the landlord has agreed to waive (not collect) rent in exchange for you moving out of the apartment, make sure you can actually leave by the date in the stipulation. Otherwise, you may have to pay the money and move.
Asking for an Order to Show Cause
If your request for more time is denied, you may be evicted if you cannot pay on time or keep other promises you made in the stipulation.
When making the stipulation, here are some things to avoid, if possible
Do not consent to a judgment.
If you agree to have a judgment entered against you, you will have to do an Order to Show Cause if you need more time to pay. In most non-payment cases, landlords require that tenants consent (agree) to a judgment in exchange for getting more time to pay back rent or to avoid trial. But the court does not require this. A judgment may appear on your credit report.
Do not consent to the immediate issuance of the warrant.
If you agree to immediate issuance of warrant, the marshal can come and evict you right away if you do not pay on time.
Do not agree to have your payments applied to current rent first.
If you agree to have your payments applied to current rent first, anything you pay towards arrears (money owed) will be put towards the current month’s rent first and it will look like you have not paid the any of the money owed.
Do not agree to pay the late or legal fees.
You only have to pay these fees if the judge orders you to.
Here are some items to include in the stipulation, if possible:
A clear explanation of:
- how much money has to be paid
- how it has to be paid (will it be sent by regular mail, certified mail, or hand delivered)
- when it has to be paid
Language that allows you to come back to court by an Order to Show Cause if you need more time to get the money. This is important if you are relying on a third party to produce money (if you are applying for a one shot deal or money from charities) or if you are waiting for unemployment payments or payments to start from Social Security. The stipulation should say “Either party can move to restore the case to the calendar for further consideration.”
Language that allows for the judgment to be vacated (removed from your record) when the money is paid or that the landlord consents (agrees) to an expungement (removal) of the case from tenant screening records.
Language that requires the landlord to make repairs, especially if there are recorded violations for your apartment. If there are no violations, try to get a list of conditions and access dates for the Landlord to repair them.
Permission to get more time if the case is a holdover and you have agreed to move out by a certain date.
Detailed access to dates and times in an HP action.