Know Your Rights: What to Do If You're Being Evicted
I Know This Is Terrifying
But, don't panic just yet. As a New Yorker, the first thing you should know is your rights. Thanks to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, tenants have many rights and privileges, even more so if they live in a rent controlled or rent stabilized apartment. Regardless if you're being evicted, or you've just moved in, it is important to know your rights. It is your landlord's responsibility to keep your apartment safe, clean, and well-maintained, for starters. To learn more, see the HPD's Tenant Rights FAQ
First Things First, Talk to Your Landlord
If you're having difficulty paying your rent, let them know as soon as possible. There is a chance that you may be able to work out a payment plan before things get out of hand.
At this point, if you foresee long term, or even short term financial difficulty, consider going to the Human Resources Administration. Here you can apply for benefits such as food stamps, or even cash assistance to help with your living costs.You can also apply for some benefits online through ACCESS NYC, and screen for eligibility for many other benefit programs!
Most New York City residents are taken to housing court because of a non-paying case. Keep in mind that, more often than not, your landlord is not seeking to evict you, they're seeking to collect rent - from one source or another. Luckily, New York City residents have many resources in order to help with back rent such as CITYFEPS Rent Supplement Program, Rental Arrears Grants through the HRA, and the Homeless Prevention Fund.
In order to access the Homeless Prevention Fund, you must first get in touch with one of these organizations listed below:
Coalition for the Homeless
129 Fulton Street
New York, NY 10038
Eviction Prevention Hotline: (212) 776-2039
The Bridge Fund
105 East 22nd Street, Suite 621 E
New York, NY 10010
Phone: (212) 674-0812
Community Service Society
105 East 22nd Street, Room 409
New York, NY 10010
Phone: (212) 614-5375
Additionally, the best thing for you to do is to simply call 311, or visit 311 Online.
Do you Need Repairs? Help with Back Rent? Seek Help Immediately
Of course, it is often much more complicated than simply non-payment. If you feel your landlord is overcharging you, or harassing you, or, they're simply not providing you with needed repairs, it is important to seek legal assistance as soon as possible. A great resource to get started is Housing Court Answers. They offer a great deal of insight into the legal process of being in housing court. Give them a call several weeks before your first court date - they can provide numerous referrals to where you can receive financial or legal assistance regarding your unique situation.
Additionally, you may want to consider finding a lawyer to represent you in court. If anything at all, seek legal consultation. If you can't afford a lawyer, you can receive free legal help through the Legal Aid Society and Legal Services NYC, just to name a few! To find a lawyer that services your area, go to LawHelpNY.org
I Still Have to Leave, now What?
Unfortunately, sometimes this happens, and it may even seem unavoidable. If you must vacate your apartment, according to your court stipulation, first note how much time you have left.
In most cases, if you settle to vacate the apartment, you will have at least 30 days to do so. If your case goes to trial, and you lose, you may need to leave in as little as 5 days.
In any case, your landlord cannot lock you out without a marshal's notice. Additionally, your landlord also cannot turn off your basic utilities, such as water, heat, electricity, or gas, for as long as you inhabit the apartment. This is very important to keep in mind. If this does occur, you can return to court and contact the police department.
At this point, you will need to start looking for another place to live. Are you able to move in with family or friends in the meantime, while you get back on your feet?
In the case where that isn't an option, seek community action organizations - many of which receive funding through the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), which offers homeless prevention or relocation services.
There are several other housing and support services including:
- Solutions to End Homelessness Program (STEHP)
- New York State Supportive Housing Program (NYSSHP)
- Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA)
- Operational Support for AIDS Housing (OSAH)
- Emergency Needs for the Homeless Program (ENHP)
You can search for housing services by region here.
DHS Prevention Assistance and Temporary Housing Facility (PATH)
Help! I Received a Marshal's Notice in the Mail
If you're reading this with a marshal's notice already in hand, I know that this is unimaginably stressful for you. I'm sorry that you and your family are going through this right now. Don't give up. Be strong.
I urge you at this point to consider any options you may have missed earlier - a resource, family member, or a friend.
Your biggest concern at this point is your safety (and your family's safety), as well as the safety of your belongings. Consider looking into storage spaces. If you can not afford a storage unit, you can still seek many, if not all of the resources mentioned above for financial assistance with securing your belongings.
And, lastly, get in touch with the Department of Homeless Services for instructions on how to enter the city's shelter system.
Shelter in-take locations are listed here.
Go to a Shelter Today.
© 2017 Jocelyn Figueroa