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December 2011 Archives

Victims of Domestic Violence Can Terminate a Lease Prior to Full Term

If you have an order of protection shielding you from domestic violence, you can obtain a court order that terminates your lease before its end date and releases you from further rent payments. You are first required to attempt to get your landlord to voluntarily end your lease obligations. If your request is refused, you must then give the landlord ten days notice that you'll be seeking the court order, and pay all rent due through termination, before you can be released by the judge. In court, you should be prepared to show that you, or one or more of your children, are at risk of harm if you continue to reside in the premises, and that moving is a significantly safer option.

If You're Facing Eviction, You May Be Eligible for an Emergency Grant or Loan

Individuals and families who are about to be evicted due to rent arrears may be able to obtain a public assistance grant or loan. In New York, at least three emergency assistance programs are available from the Human Resources Administration: Emergency Assistance to Families, Emergency Assistance to Adults, and Emergency Safety Net Assistance. To get this help, you primarily need to show that you'll be able to pay future rent if you receive assistance now, and that you have no alternate housing. It's worth looking into if you've run out of other options. Call 311 and ask the operator for the local Public Assistance Office for your Zip Code. Also, in New York City, Catholic Charities and Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation administer Federal Emergency Management Agency or "FEMA" grants of one month's rent to prevent eviction. There are other organizations with similar offers - the Citywide Taskforce on Housing Court (212-962-4795) provides referrals to charities that give financial assistance to tenants facing eviction. If you can scrape together the money for a consultation with a Tenants' lawyer, you may also get some good advice on buying yourself the extra time you might need to get everything coordinated. 

Don't Pay The Landlord's Legal Fees

Many leases say that if there is litigation, you must reimburse the landlord for the cost of legal fees. However, unless you agree to do so, only the court can actually order you to pay these expenses. Sometimes landlords get perturbed about not getting back money they had to pay to lawyers. If that issue gets in the way of hammering out a workable settlement, bring the argument to the attention of the judge or law assistant and explain that you've been trying to resolve the dispute in good faith. If that's the only obstacle to settling, the court may intervene and ask the landlord's lawyer to drop the demand that you pay attorneys fees.

Be Careful What You Say to a Court-Appointed Guardian

In child custody cases, a New York Court will sometimes appoint a guardian for the children. A guardian is usually an attorney whose job it is to represent the child or children, and to express their needs to the court. You need to keep in mind that any conversations you have with the guardian are not privileged attorney-client communication, and whatever you say, write or do can be used against you. Even things that you would expect to help you may be damaging. For example, it's not a good idea to make criticisms about your spouse to the guardian. This gives the impression of a tendency towards parental alienation, something courts take a very dim view of and can hurt your case. 

How to Hire a New York Divorce Lawyer

Retaining the right matrimonial attorney can make the difference between whether you get a good outcome or not, and whether your case proceeds smoothly or turns into a costly nightmare. So what constitutes the "right" lawyer for you? Here are a few points to consider. Essentially, there are three basic criteria to evaluate.

File Strong Papers

If your landlord is attempting to evict you in Housing Court, you will receive a legal document called a petition. In response, you must file a document referred to as an answer. Your initial answer can be the most important element in your entire case for two reasons. First, it is frequently the first thing a judge will look at when examining a tenant's side of the case. Second, if you do not assert all relevant defenses and claims in it, you may lose the right to do so later. If you rely on the Court Clerk to help you fill out your answer, not all of the applicable defenses or claims may be included. The Clerk isn't your lawyer, doesn't have time to analyze your case, and is very busy. Even if you're going to represent yourself, you should at least try to get together the funds for a consultation with a Tenants' attorney, so that this very critical document can be filled out properly from the start. Your case and tenancy may depend on it. 

Three Keys to Challenging Landlord Papers That Can Get Your Case Dismissed (Plus Another Strategy to Beef Up Your Defense)

All court documents have to be completed properly for the landlord to succeed against you in Housing Court. Otherwise the case can be dismissed. However, you have to raise effective objections to defects in the papers to get a dismissal. There are three easy challenges to landlord papers you can immediately raise in your defense, if applicable.

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