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Starting a Case

In General
The Demand for Rent
Starting the Case
Requirements for a Nonpayment Petition
Going to Court


In General

A nonpayment case is brought by the landlord to collect unpaid rent. A tenant may be evicted for non-payment of rent.

If you would like to watch a video on how to bring a nonpayment case in the housing court, go to Collecting Rent.

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The Demand for Rent

Before the case can be started, the landlord or someone working for the landlord, must demand the overdue rent from the tenant and warn the tenant that if the rent is not paid, the tenant can be evicted. The demand must be in writing and must be delivered to the tenant at least 14 days before the court case is started.

If you are a landlord with a one or two family house, or a building with fewer than five apartments, or own a coop or condo, the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program has a free DIY (Do-It-Yourself) computer program to help you make a written Rent Demand. Or you can buy a Rent Demand form at a legal stationary store, like Blumberg.

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Starting the Case

If the tenant does not pay the rent after the demand is made, the landlord may file a nonpayment petition (sometimes called a "dispossess") against the tenant in Housing Court. Landlords who do not have a lawyer, who own a one or two family house, or a building with fewer than five apartments, or own a coop or condo, can use the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program's free and easy DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Form program to make a nonpayment petition that is ready to print, serve and file to start a case. This program is only for un-regulated housing. There is a fee to start the case.

Or, the landlord may use forms of his or her own, or may buy the following forms at a legal stationary store:
1. Petition
2. Notice of Petition
3. Service copies
4. Postcard

The nonpayment petition must contain:
1. the interest of the petitioner in the premises;
2. the interest of the respondent in the premises and his/her relationship with the petitioner;
3. a description of the premises;
4. the facts upon which the proceeding is based;
5. the relief sought.

The Rules of the Court also require a petitioner to plead whether the building is a multiple dwelling, and if so, that there is a currently effective registration statement on file with the office of code enforcement, the multiple dwelling registration number along with the name and address of the managing agent. Visit our page on multiple dwelling registration for information on how to find your building’s registration number.

The landlord must fill out the forms (see Requirements for Nonpayment Petitions below) and make photocopies, then bring the forms to the Landlord-Tenant Clerk’s Office to the cashier’s window to buy an index number. Payment may be made by cash, certified check or money order. Make the money order or certified check payable to the "Clerk of the Civil Court." Go to Locations to find out where to go in your county. Refer to Court Fees to find out the cost of starting the case.

The clerk will stamp the index number on the original forms and will keep the Petition. The clerk will return the Notice of Petition with the index number stamped on the front. The landlord must make sure the tenant receives a copy of the Notice of Petition and the Petition in the manner required by law. Refer to Service of the Notice of Petition and Petition to learn more.

After serving the papers, the landlord must bring back the original Notice of Petition with the notarized affidavit of service on the back filled out. In addition, the landlord must bring in the stamped postcard so that the court can mail it to the tenant. After the tenant answers, the court will mail a postcard to the landlord stating the date, time, and place of the court hearing. To learn more about answering the petition, go to Answering a Case. If the tenant does not answer, and the rent is still not paid, the landlord can apply for a default judgment based on the tenant’s failure to answer.

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Requirements for a Nonpayment Petition

1. The petition must be brought by a person who has a right to recover the property. This may be a landlord, a primary tenant, a roommate who holds a lease in his or her name, an estate, etc.
2. The respondent must be identified. This is done by providing the name of the respondent, although there might be unidentified undertenants who are styled as John and/or Jane Does.
3. The nature of the agreement by which the respondent entered into the tenancy must be provided. This could be a lease or a month to month tenancy, and must have some specificity as to when it began.
4. The amount of rent to be collected as well as the day on which the rent is to be paid.
5. The location of the premises. The petition must be brought in the county where the building is located.
6. There must be a specific allegation as to the rent due. This normally requires that the amounts due for each rental period be specified. If any other money is due, say for taxes as "additional rent," or for late or attorney fees, these must be itemized separately and totaled.
7. There must be an allegation as to the rent demand, either that it was oral, or in writing. If in writing, the demand and an affidavit of service may be submitted to the court.
8. There must be an allegation that the respondent continues to occupy the premises. If the respondent has left the premises, a nonpayment proceeding may not be maintained.
9. There must be a statement that either the premises are not subject to rent regulation, and the reason; or, that the premises are subject to rent regulation, and the kind of rent regulation that applies.
10. The petition must specify whether the premises is a multiple dwelling or not. If it is, the name and address of the managing agent and the multiple dwelling registration must be supplied. See Finding the Multiple Dwelling Registration Information.
11. There must be a clause specifying the relief requested. This normally must state whether the premises is used by the respondent as a residence or not, the amount of money for which judgment is requested, and the interest date, if interest is sought, as well as a request that the judgment be granted and a warrant of eviction be issued.
12. The petition must be signed by the petitioner.
13. The petition must be verified. The verification may be made by different persons on behalf of the petitioner, or by the petitioner him or herself if a natural person. The verification must be affirmed or sworn to and notarized.

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Going to Court

If you received a postcard from the court with a court date you must appear in the courtroom on that date. You can get Directions if you do not know how to get to the courthouse. Get there early, since you will need to go through a metal detector before entering the courthouse. You should bring all your evidence in support of your claim or defense. The first courtroom you go to is called a "Resolution Part." To learn more about what happens there, refer to the Resolution Part.