NYC landlords are required to maintain their residential tenants' apartments in good condition. We see apartment buildings in disrepair all of the time in our neighborhoods and on the news. You can take affirmative action against your landlord by filing an HP Proceeding in housing court. A tenant can bring an HP action to force the landlord to make necessary repairs. Any tenant can file an HP action by visiting the clerk's office in the Civil Court in their boro. The clerk there will help you file the necessary paperwork and schedule an inspection of your apartment by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (“HPD”). After HPD inspects, they will issue violations and fines to the landlord for any uninhabitable conditions in your apartment. It's important to be present during the inspection so that you can point out any bad conditions to the HPD inspector.
On the court date, the tenant will have their case heard by the judge, and the judge will typically issue an order for repairs after reviewing the HPD violations. The tenant and landlord can agree upon access dates for the necessary repairs to be made. Tenants should note that attorneys from the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development will also be present, but that they do not represent the tenant, they only represent the city agency so it is important to be prepared with documentary evidence of the conditions including pictures, videos and notice to the landlord of any bad condition in the apartment.
If a landlord fails to make the repairs in the time frame stated on the court order, a tenant can file an Order to Show Cause for Contempt to request that the Court punish the landlord for failing to complete the work as stated in the order. If a landlord is found to be in contempt of court, the judge will order the landlord to pay a fine to HPD and if you have an attorney, the judge may force the landlord to pay your legal fees.
HP cases are more successful if tenants from several apartments in the building file an action together. Filing on behalf of a group of apartments affected by a landlord's failure to maintain the building in good condition will provide more weight to the argument that repairs must be made as soon as possible.
While the HP part is a good step toward getting your landlord make necessary repairs, it's important to note that the judge in the HP part doesn't have the authority to grant rent abatements to tenants for bad conditions. It is frustrating, but often times, tenants will have to file an HP case and also withhold rent and defend themselves in a non-payment case to get repairs and a rent reduction.
We recommend coming in to meet with an attorney at the Rozen Law Group if you are considering filing an HP case against your landlord. With any litigation, complications can arise, and having an attorney advocating on your behalf and guiding you through the process will ensure that your repairs are effective and complete. Our lawyers have negotiated abatements in the context of HP a actions and as a result, have kept many tenants out of the non-payment part and off of the tenant blacklist.