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Landlord-Tenant Basics Outside NYC

Landlord-tenant cases have the same basic steps if they go all the way to a trial. But, most cases do not go through all the steps.

  1. Before the Case is Started: In most cases, the law says that the person living in the home must be given notice before a court case can be started. If this is not done right, a judge can dismiss the case. The notice gives the tenant or person living in the home a chance to pay, or fix the problem or move out by a certain date. The amount of notice and type of notice depends on what kind of case it is. Learn more about the notices needed.
  2. Starting a Case: A landlord-tenant case is started when the landlord/owner makes court papers called a Notice of Petition and Petition, goes to Court, picks a court date, pays a fee, delivers the papers to the tenant and gives proof of this to the Court. The Notice of Petition tells the tenant when and where to come to Court and that that the tenant must Answer the Petition. The Petition says the reasons that the landlord/owner wants to evict the tenant or other person living in the home. The reason can be to collect rent. This is called a nonpayment case. A case started for a different reason, other than nonpayment of rent, like the lease ended, is called a holdover case. The person or company starting the case is called the petitioner and the person that the case is started against is called the respondent. Learn more about how to start a case.
  3. Preparing for Court: In a landlord-tenant case, you go to court right away. There is no period of time for the parties to exchange information to prepare their cases unless either side files a motion to ask for this. So before the court date, both sides should find any papers they may need, like the lease, notices, rent receipts, building inspection reports, and the deed. Find and prepare any witnesses. A tenant who plans to pay rent owed should bring some or all of the money to Court. Most importantly, both sides should think about what they want to tell the Judge. The respondent will have to Answer the Petition and tell the Court any defenses he or she may have to the case. Learn more about Answering the Case and Common Defenses.
  4. Going to Court: Get to Court on time. If you are late or miss your court date, you may lose the case. The court does not give you a lawyer. You will have to listen for your case to be called and make sure that the Clerk knows you are there. When your case is called, the tenant or person living in the home can tell the Court his or her Answer and any reasons or defenses why the landlord should not win the case. Read about Answering the Case. This is also a good time to see if the other side wants to settle the case. Visit LawHelp or read more about Stipulations for advice about settling a case if you are the tenant. If the case is not dismissed or settled, there will be a trial.
  5. Trial: If the case goes to trial it may be on the same day or another day. Most cases are tried by a Judge. The winning side will get a judgment. Learn more about trials.
  6. Eviction: If the Petitioner gets a judgment and a warrant of eviction, a marshal, sheriff or constable may evict the respondent. The respondent must be served with a notice of eviction first. Petitioners can learn more. Respondents can learn more.

During the case, if either side wants to Ask the Judge for Something, like stop an eviction, they do this by filing an Order to Show Cause.

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