What to Do If You Are Served Eviction Papers
There are few experiences as threatening as the prospect of being thrown out of your own home. High stakes eviction battles are fought every day in New York City Housing Court. When the roof over your head is on the line, you want to stack the deck in your favor in every way possible. Here are seven keys to winning your case and protecting yourself. They are time-tested principles New York landlord-tenant lawyer Jeff McAdams has successfully used in defending client rights for over 30 years.
1) Be knowledgeable about your rights. Your landlord cannot evict you from your apartment without going through an extensive court process. Any attempts to remove you from your home without a court order are illegal. In fact, the landlord can then be charged with a crime.
2) Have a solid argument. There is a multitude of rules and regulations that govern the eviction process in New York. You’ll need a landlord-tenant attorney to determine the specific laws that apply to your case and shield you, and which ones your landlord may have violated. A housing court judge will need clear legal reasons to temporarily halt the landlord’s attempts to get you out, and ultimately to decide in your favor.
If you’re being evicted in a nonpayment proceeding, a delay may give you time to come up with the back rent due. However, you’ll be in a stronger position if you put the rent in escrow so that the court knows it will be paid if the dispute can be resolved. Your argument will then have more credibility, and you’re more likely to get a ruling in your favor.
3) Show evidence. The more evidence you have to support your position, the better. Any written complaints you’ve made, along with photographs of bad conditions in your unit help to prove your claims. Show them all to your lawyer.
4) Hire an attorney who knows how to operate within the housing court system. Landlord-tenant law is one of the most complex of all legal practices. It’s in your best interests to retain a law firm with a focus on these cases, and more specifically on defending tenant rights. Look for many years of experience, and a background of success. You want an attorney who has prevailed for clients numerous times, and can steer you safely through your case.
5) Keep perception on your side. Judges and juries are people first. After all the facts are taken into consideration in a lawsuit, a swaying factor is that people tend to rule in favor of those they like. We all generally empathize with those who appear to have been treated unjustly. Therefore, in all your interactions with the court system, your posture should communicate that you are fair, reasonable and nice. Then there’s a greater likelihood of others deciding you’ve been victimized, and deserve to win your case.
6) Have staying power. Set aside the funds to fight it out. Landlords know that in many instances they can outspend tenants and wear them down. If it appears you’re willing to go the distance through trial, there’s a better chance of your landlord agreeing to settle.
7) Maintain your composure. Don’t let your opponents, the judge or the jury see you sweat or lose your temper. These reactions can suggest a lack of credibility. Also, a case where tensions run high is a harder case to win.