This page has been updated because of the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019.

Answering a Case Outside NYC

An Answer lets you tell the court your side of the story. There are two ways to answer the Petition:

  • when you go to court tell the Clerk or Judge your Answer (oral Answer), or
  • give the landlord/owner and the Clerk or Judge a written Answer.

If you tell the Court your Answer check to see that the Court wrote down everything you said. The Clerk or Judge must do this under the law.

You can Answer when you go to court.



Your Answer says the legal reasons that the landlord should not win the case. The legal reasons are called defenses. You will have to prove your defenses in Court. Tenants may have more than one defense depending on the facts of each case. You may have a defense because you are not sure that what the landlord/owner is saying in the Petition is correct. This is called a General Denial. If this is true, you write or tell the court, General Denial, in your Answer. Read Common Defenses in a Landlord-Tenant Case to see what to say in your Answer.

Important! If you do not tell the court about a defense in your Answer you might not be able to talk about it later in your case.


Claims Against the Landlord

You may add counterclaims, to your Answer. A counterclaim is a claim that you may have against the landlord/owner. In a counterclaim you are asking the landlord/owner to pay you money. The counterclaim must be about the rent if it is a nonpayment case and about your home if it is a holdover case. Defenses, like lack of repairs and rent overcharge, can also be counterclaims. Money for repairs you made can be a counterclaim.


What Happens if You Need More Time (Adjournments)

If you are not ready on your court date and you need more time for any reason, you can ask the Judge to postpone the case. This postponement is called an adjournment. The judge must adjourn the case for at least 14 days, even if the landlord doesn’t want to.

If you are still not ready at your next court date, you can ask the Judge for another adjournment. This time, it is important to have a good reason why you need more time, like your witness is away, or you are waiting for records to prove your defenses. The Judge can say yes or no to your request for more time.

You can also ask the landlord to agree to an adjournment. If the landlord agrees, the court will adjourn the case “on consent.”


What Happens if You Don’t Answer or Come to Court

If you don’t come to court the landlord/owner can ask the Judge for a judgment on default against you. If the landlord/owner gets a judgment you can be Evicted, and the landlord/owner can take your salary, money or property.

If you have a good reason for missing your court date and a reason why the landlord should not win the case, you may be able to cancel the judgment and get a new court date. See Vacating a Default Judgment.

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