How to file in Housing Court 13

I went back to Manhattan Housing Court on Tuesday, January 22, to continue my efforts to get “my” co-op Board of Directors, i.e., my landlord, to complete the maintenance work they’d promised to have completed in six weeks from our last court appearance, November 30, 2012.

I’d marked those six weeks in my calendar. The work hasn’t been done. So back to court I went.

Big tip: I stopped at my local convenience store to pick up newspapers, because I knew I’d be waiting for an indefinite time in Housing Court and would need something to read. (Bring something to read.)

Then, after going through the security apparatus at 111 Centre Street, I walked up to the second floor Housing Court clerk’s office and waited a very short time on the line for window 6. I told the clerk I wanted to file an affidavit to put my case back on the calendar.

He handed me the form, the full actual title of which is, “AFFIDAVIT IN SUPPORT OF AN ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE To Restore to the Calendar for a Compliance Hearing and for Assessment of Civil Penalties (H.P.).” (It takes less time to fill it in than it does to read that title out loud.)

Smaller tip: bring a pen with a hard tip. It’s a two-page self-carbon form and you have to press reasonably firmly.

Pressing firmly, I filled in the form using my previous forms as an example, especially for the FACTS section, where I was able to put in not only the “violations/condition [that] have not yet been corrected:” but also the precise violation number which the HPD inspector had given that particular violation. (I left blank the “History” line; the last date ordered by the court is filled in by the clerk after he pulls the file.)

I then went back to Window 6 and in front of the clerk signed the form. He notarized it, gave me a little slip of paper with the case name and number on it, and instructed me to take it and myself upstairs to Housing Court on the 11th floor.

I did. I gave the little slip to the court deputy, and took a seat. (The clerk’s office was at that time hand-schlepping my file, along with a pile of others, upstairs to the Court.) The Court was not very full, so…

Tip of no particular size: I went to court in the afternoon. This Court in the morning is often crammed. If you go in the afternoon to put your case back onto the calendar it might not take too long. (Court appearances, though, are called for 9:30 a.m. and as I’ve noted previously you have to be on time.)

I hadn’t even finished the Daily News before the deputy called me up, handed me a couple of copies of a printed out Order to Show Cause, signed by the sitting judge, and a new court date of January 31. The deputy verbally gave me the instructions printed on the form: “Service of a copy of this Order, and annexed Affidavit, upon the attorney for the respondents…on or before 1/24/13…”

How many times have I done this? Well, I’m so accustomed to the process, I could have brought with me the mailing envelope and the certified mail receipt and card, and mailed it immediately. Instead, I went home and at my leisure and comfort filled out everything and went over to the post office to mail it and get proof of service. When I came home, I stapled my certified mail receipt to the Order to Show Cause.

And inscribed the next court date into my calendar.

What is this all about? Simple. When you file a complaint against your landlord in Housing Court, you yourself become the chief witness as to whether the work has been completed. Your appearance in Housing Court — where your landlord, maybe with his lawyer, arrives to defend himself — earns you a promise made in front of a judge and a HPD lawyer, that the work will be done. In a specified period of time. With a completion date.

The work has not been done. I am the witness to the landlord’s failure to keep a court-confirmed promise. In my case, there have been many such promises, numerous excuses, and as of now $1,820 in fines, but the work has still not been done.

So I go back to Court to state this failure, and ask that the landlord (once again) be fined by the Court for his failure to keep that promise.

We petitioners (that’s what we’re called) don’t have to go back to Court. We could let the whole thing slide, let our floors fall in and our ceilings fall down. We could let the landlords of this city get away with failure to maintain their buildings.

But if we do, we are letting ourselves down, letting down our fellow residents, our buildings and all the vigorous agencies in this City that exist to make sure our rights and our persons are being protected.

That’s why I go back to Court. I do it with pleasant persistence and with the certainty that I am right.


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