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Don't Agree to a Payment Plan You Can't Keep

If you owe back rent to the landlord and you've agreed to a payment schedule in court, not abiding by it can have serious legal implications. As a rule, Housing Court judges will not delay eviction unless there's a good reason for it.

There's no point in making an agreement you can't keep. Tenants sometimes believe that doing so will buy time. Unfortunately, extra time may come at a high price - the end result might be that it's harder to retain your tenancy, and you'll probably have higher legal costs. Your eviction will also be more likely, at which point you might have to pay marshal's fees, plus moving and storage expenses.

More complications arise if the court issues a judgment and warrant of eviction, which compound the damage from being blacklisted.

Settlement agreements are called stipulations. Landlord lawyers often add language to them that permits the issuance of a judgment and warrant of eviction. Avoid agreeing to this. The stipulation should require the landlord to notify you if you miss a deadline, and give you a chance to correct your failure to comply. Otherwise, if you cannot pay on time and get a marshal's notice, your eviction can be almost immediate.

Having judgment or warrant of eviction language in a stipulation can be a point of negotiation, and at the very least you'll want something valuable in return if you agree to it. Depending on the facts of your particular situation, there are a number of things you can ask for. Stand firm...don't be so quick go along with what the landlord's attorney requests. You may want to speak to a tenants' lawyer about the best negotiating strategy, or retain counsel to bargain for you, which is a safer option.

The reality is that unforeseen events can occur and disrupt a payment timetable, even when you feel sure there won't be a problem. For example, if you get rent assistance from a government agency, sometimes there are delays. Having language in your settlement agreement that gives you extra time helps guard against eviction due to circumstances over which you have no control.

By following these guidelines you'll have greater protection of your rights. You don't have to agree to a judgment or warrant without having a trial, during which you can explain your situation and raise defenses. However, if you run into an impassible roadblock with the landlord's attorney over language, you may have to fight it out in court.

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