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New York City Civil Court - Housing Part


Answering a Case

Answering: In General
Answering A Nonpayment Petition
Answering A Holdover Petition
Serving Your Written Answer
Jury Demand
Inspection Request
Traverse Hearing

Answering: In General

If you have received a petition from the civil court, you must appear and answer within the time period provided for in the notice of petition. If you have received a postcard from the court indicating that papers have been filed asking the court to evict you from your residence, you must also answer. You should bring a copy of the court papers you received, or the postcard from the court, when you come to answer.

If you are an individual, you may answer either orally or in writing. Any individual named as respondent, or any person in possession or claiming possession of the premises, may submit an answer. Your answer should include any legal or equitable defense or explanation that you might have. You may also make a counterclaim in response to a petition at that time.

If you do not answer and appear, the party suing you may be able to enter a possessory judgment and/or a money judgment against you. The petitioner may be able to evict you, as well as garnish your wages or levy on your bank account. If you received a notice from a marshal or a sheriff you may be able to vacate your default and/or stop the eviction. You can learn more about this and other housing court procedures by reading our Legal and Procedural Information sections.

The time to answer the petition and the procedures for answering a nonpayment petition and a holdover petition differ and are set forth below. You should bring a copy of the court papers you received, or the postcard from the court, when you come to answer. The clerk will ask you to show some form of identification.

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Answering a Nonpayment Petition

If you are served with a nonpayment petition you must answer within 5 days after you have received the notice of petition. To find out where to answer in your county, refer to Locations. The clerk will set a date for trial between 3 days and 8 days after you answer. You may answer orally or in writing.

To answer orally, you must come to Court and speak to a clerk at the counter who will check off a Landlord/Tenant Answer In Person form based upon what you tell him or her. You should tell the clerk if you are in the military or a dependent of someone in the military. The Answer in Person form contains a list of possible defenses that may or may not apply to you. After the clerk completes this form you will get a duplicate copy of it. Check to make sure that your answer was correctly recorded by the clerk before you leave the counter. If the answer is not correct, tell the clerk. Bring your copy of this form and all court papers to court on the hearing date.

View information on Answering a Notice of Petition And Petition (CIV-LT-92). To read more about the defenses listed on the Answer in Person form, go to the Housing Fact Sheets. If you live in a rent stabilized or NYCHA apartment, you can use the interactive Nonpayment Answer Program to learn about your defenses and help you prepare to answer a nonpayment petition in person. You can also watch a community seminar about Defenses to a Nonpayment Proceeding.

You may answer in writing by using a free Civil Court form, or your own form. You may come to the clerk’s office and request a Landlord/Tenant Answer In Writing And Verification form from the clerk at the counter. You will be given two duplicate copies of this form. You may also download the form now. You can download the Answer in Writing Instructions.

The procedure for a written answer is more complicated and if not done properly, your answer may be rejected. You must fill out the written answer form and then serve the form on the other side. If you do not prepare your written answer in court, the procedure is slightly different. Go to Serving Your Written Answer for instructions on how to serve the answer correctly. Bring your copy of the answer and all court papers to court on the hearing date.

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Answering a Holdover Petition

If you are served with a holdover petition, generally you must answer orally or in writing in the courtroom on the date of the hearing. However, if the petitioner serves the notice of petition at least 8 days prior to the return date, the notice of petition may ask you to answer at least 3 days before the hearing date. To find out where to answer in your county, go to Locations.

If you answer orally by coming to the court and speaking to a clerk at the counter, the clerk will indorse your answer on the court file. You should tell the clerk if you are in the military or a dependent of someone in the military. You may also answer in writing by coming to court and asking the clerk for a Landlord/Tenant Answer In Writing And Verification form, or you may submit your own written answer. You may also download the Answer in Writing civil court form. You can download the Answer in Writing Instructions. The procedure for a written answer is more complicated and if not done properly, your answer may be rejected. You must fill out the written answer form and then serve the form on the other side. If you do not prepare your written answer in court, the procedure is slightly different. Continue reading below for instructions on how to serve the answer correctly. Bring your copy of the answer and all court papers to court on the hearing date.

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Serving Your Written Answer

After you have completed a written answer, you must serve the petitioner by following the instructions below.

1. Make two copies of the completed written answer.
2. Have someone over the age of 18, who is not a party in this action, mail a copy of the written answer by regular mail to the attorney for the petitioner or to the petitioner directly only if there is no attorney.
3. You may also have someone over the age of 18, who is not a party in the action, personally deliver the written answer to the petitioner’s attorney, or the petitioner directly only if there is no attorney.
4. Next you need an affidavit swearing that the written answer was served. Download the free Affidavit of Service civil court form.
5. Prepare an Affidavit of Service for the service on the petitioner and have the person who served the written answer sign the Affidavit of Service in front of a notary.
6. Attach the original Affidavit of Service to the original written answer.
7. For Nonpayment cases, return the written answer and affidavit of service to the Court within five days of receiving the notice of petition.
8. For Holdover cases, if the notice of petition requires you to answer prior to the hearing date, you must return the original of the answer and affidavit of service in the court at least three days before the hearing date. Otherwise, you may bring the written answer to court on the hearing date.
9. Keep a copy for your records and bring all your papers with you when you come to court for the hearing date.

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Jury Demand

You can also request that your case be tried before a jury. In a jury trial, the jury, not the judge, makes the decision and a judgment is entered based on the verdict reached by the jury.

If you wish to make a jury demand, you should request a jury trial when you answer the petition. You can tell the clerk and pay the jury demand fee. Go to Court Fees to learn the amount of the fee. If you cannot afford to pay the fee, you may be entitled to have the fee waived. Refer to Poor Person’s Relief to learn more.

Keep in mind that the Judge may later decide that you are not entitled to a jury trial because you gave up your right in your lease. Most leases include an agreement to give up a right to a jury trial.

You can also request a jury demand at a later time. However, the judge may deny your request, if you wait too long. For more information on filing a late jury demand, go to Timeliness of Jury Demands to read the Civil Court Directive on the subject.

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Inspection Request

If you have a repair problem in your apartment or building, you should ask for an inspection from the clerk or the Judge the first time you are in court or as soon after that as possible. An inspector from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development will come to your home and make a report to the court. The report will help you prove that there are bad conditions that need repair.

If you request an inspection, you may get a date for the inspection and a date to return to court. You will be asked to make a list of the repairs needed. Make sure to include every problem in each room of your apartment and in the public areas of the building. To view a copy of the Tenant’s Request for Inspection, make an Inspection Request. If you fail to include a problem or area on the inspection request form, the inspector may refuse to look at it.

On the day of the inspection, it is important that someone be home to let the inspector in. Be sure to show the inspector all of the problems you listed.

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Traverse Hearing

If you did not receive a copy of the notice of petition and petition, or you believe that the papers were not served properly, that is a defense to the case and should be included in your answer. Refer to Service of the Notice of Petition and Petition to learn more about the proper way to deliver legal papers. If you raise this defense, the judge may decide to set a date for a hearing, called a traverse hearing, to decide whether the service of the court papers was proper.

At the traverse hearing, the landlord’s process server may be asked to tell under oath how he or she served you with the court papers. You will have the right to ask the process server questions, to testify yourself, and to call witnesses to explain that the papers were not delivered properly.

If the judge finds that the service of the papers were not served properly, the case will be dismissed without prejudice. The landlord may start the case over again by giving you a new set of papers. If you receive another set of papers, you must come to court and answer them again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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