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September 2012 Archives

No Pictures Without Permission

Landlords do not have the right to take photographs inside your apartment without your permission. If your apartment is messy and the landlord knows it, he or she may come up with a reason to request an inspection, and then try to take pictures to use against you on a claim of unsafe clutter. Also, the landlord is not permitted to look in your closets without your consent. If he or she attempts to do so, you can block access by standing in front of the closet door. If the landlord persists, ask him or her to leave. If your request is ignored, call the police - do not risk having the disagreement escalate into a physical altercation. When your landlord engages in these tactics, it's good to have someone else present for the visit so you'll have a witness in court, or when the police come.

Three Important Defenses for Nonpayment Cases

In Housing Court, pointing out technical errors in the landlord's papers in your Answer can beat the case, even when those mistakes seem unimportant. A technical victory may only be short term, but that may be enough to buy the time you need to raise the money to pay any rent due, so you can to hold onto your home.

Photocopy Everything You Legally Can

Copy any records you find relating to your marriage's finances and keep them in a safe place. Even if you aren't sure they're relevant, it is better to be on the safe side so they can be available if your attorney asks about the subject. Records include receipts, statements, bills, checks, tax returns and any other financial documents. Speak with your lawyer as to what you have legal access to before making copies, so that you're not accused of invading your spouse's privacy. 

If They Don't Cooperate, Subpoena 'Em

To prove your case at trial or defeat the landlord's claims you will usually need witnesses to testify or to send documents to the court in a proper form, so the evidence comes into the record. Unfortunately, people don't usually come forward voluntarily in time for trial or the court date. You can ask the Clerk at Housing Court for a subpoena form, commanding specific parties to appear or to produce documents and records by a certain date. After you fill them out and a judge signs them, the subpoena becomes a court order directing witnesses to come to court or to supply specific evidence. In this way you can even subpoena government agencies or other organizations. When the subpoena is properly delivered, the recipient is under court order to show up or supply the records. Failure to do so can result in charges of contempt of court, which is serious. So the witness's compliance in providing what you need is far more likely.

Stay Friendly and Stay In Touch

If your spouse is self-employed or owns a business, it can be harder to determine his or her actual income. If your spouse has business or professional partners, they can be a good source of information. You may have met them socially, or had an opportunity to meet the husband or wife of a partner and engaged in friendly conversation. Stay alert. One of these individuals may state important facts, or might provide useful information if you ask. For safety, speak to your lawyer first before initiating any contact. 

Help with Rent for Victims of Domestic Violence

If you owe back rent to your landlord and are a victim of domestic violence, you may be eligible for a "one shot" emergency grant. To qualify you need to meet eligibility criteria. Call 311 to find a local public assistance center where you can apply. If you are a victim of marital abuse, you should also contact a matrimonial attorney for legal advice on your rights to protection and keeping children safe.

Circumstances That Break Leases

If an apartment you rented is not available for occupancy at the beginning of the lease term, you have an opportunity to rescind the lease if you've had a change of heart after signing it. For example, if the apartment isn't ready when it's supposed to be, it can be a way out.

Get Records and Be Informed

In a significant number of marriages, one individual is largely responsible for handling the finances. Often, the other party knows little about family income and expenses. If you intend to divorce, begin to compile the financial information you'll need and get informed. If you've filed a joint return and don't have it, one practical way to begin is by writing to the IRS and asking for a copy of it. That will give your lawyer a good starting place from which to make critical assessments regarding maintenance, child support and property distribution. 

With an Unscrupulous Landlord, Pay the Rent by Certified Mail

If your landlord aggressively pursues every means to throw you out of your apartment, then when you pay rent every month, send the check by certified mail and make sure the checks are being received and deposited. If Post Office records show the mailings are being rejected, or if the landlord isn't depositing the checks, follow up with correspondence to the landlord asking why this is happening. Otherwise you risk the landlord surprising you with a claim the rent was never received, and commencing eviction proceedings against you. An alternative is to bring the payments to the landlord's office and get a receipt for them. This isn't always practical and some tenants are uncomfortable encountering an intimidating landlord every month. With certified mail, you'll have physical proof you sent the rent in on time. It's inconvenient, but sometimes necessary in order to protect your rights.

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