What types of tenants are eligible for free legal representation in Housing Court?
Right to Counsel has been expanded to all zip codes in New York City! This means that no matter what neighborhood you live in, you may be eligible for free legal representation in Housing Court if you are low-income and an eviction case has been filed against you. Having a lawyer can help you stop or delay your eviction.
You will probably not be able to get free legal representation in Housing Court if:
- Your housing issue is not about an eviction (exceptions apply for some extreme repair issues)
- Your landlord has not started an eviction case yet (falling behind in the rent, threats of eviction, and pre-eviction papers are not enough)
How can I hire a private lawyer for my housing issue?
In some cases, a good tenant lawyer will make all of the difference. Be advised that the law firms below represent tenants for a fee and do not give general advice over the phone.
- Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph 212-349-3000 www.hmgdjlaw.com
- Collins, Dobkin, & Miller LLP 212-587-2400 www.collinsdobkinmiller.com
- Grad & Weinraub, LLP 212-732-0400 www.grad-weinraub.com
- Stephen Palitz 212-232-2055
- Sokolski & Zekaria, P.C. 212-571-4080 firstname.lastname@example.org
- James Fishman 212-897-5840 www.fishmanlaw.nyc
- Peggy Collen 212-859-5092 www.pcollenlaw.com
- Alterman & Boop LLP 212-226-2800 www.altermanandboop.com
- George S. Locker 212-473-7538
- McAdams Law 212-406-5145 www.mcadamslaw.net
- Kenneth B. Hawco 212-874-7717
- William E. Leavitt 212-897-5852
The above is a list of experienced lawyers and law firms who specialize exclusively in New York City tenant-landlord law, and who only represent tenants (and never represent landlords).
When choosing a private lawyer, you may want to consider:
- Does your lawyer represent only tenants, and never landlords? A lawyer who represents both tenants and landlords may be knowledgeable about the court process, but there may be a conflict of interest. In most cases, housing lawyers will have many more landlord clients than tenant clients. Your own landlord may have hired the law firm in the past, or may do so in the future. Also, the lawyer may be more experienced in fighting for the interests of landlords and may be unfamiliar with many parts of the law that can benefit tenants. Met Council on Housing suggests that tenants find a lawyer who only represents tenants.
- Does your lawyer specialize in New York City tenant-landlord law? Simply being a lawyer doesn’t mean that you know New York City tenant-landlord law. NYC housing law is extremely complex, and many people spend their career focusing on it exclusively. A lawyer who does other types of law (immigration, divorce, criminal defense, etc) will not be as familiar with the issues and nuances of NYC housing law. Met Council on Housing suggests that tenants find a tenant lawyer who specializes in NYC tenant-landlord law.
Where can I go for free legal assistance?
While the expansion of Right to Counsel has greatly increased tenants’ ability to get free legal representation in an eviction case, it can still be difficult to get free or low-cost legal help if you do not have a current case or you have legal needs outside of an eviction. If you are unable to get a lawyer, make sure you prepare yourself best to defend yourself in court.
A good starting point in your search for free legal services is: LawHelp.org/NY
Citywide Legal Service Providers:
- Legal Aid Society of New York: Programs and offices citywide.
- Legal Services NYC Programs and offices city-wide. – Legal Services NYC citywide network
- City Bar Association Legal Clinic and Hotline Serves all of NYC.
- MFJ Legal Services : Services vary depending on location and categories
Special Categories for Citywide Legal Services:
YOUTH: The Door Legal Services Center Serves people between the ages of 12 and 21 citywide
The Family Center – Caretakers who care for minor children due to parental illness, absence, or loss; families with adolescents who are at-risk of out-of-home placement.
MEDICAL: The Family Center – Individuals with HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes; caretakers of children exposed to HIV.
- Legal Services NYC-Bronx
- Legal Aid – Bronx – 718-991-4600
- Bedford-Stuyvesant Community Legal Services
- Brooklyn Legal Services
- Brooklyn Legal Services Corp. A (Serves North Brooklyn)
- CAMBA Legal Services – South Brooklyn 718-287-0010
- Brooklyn Legal Aid – 718-722-3100
- Manhattan Legal Services
- Northern Manhattan Improvement Corp. Legal Services (Serves Inwood and Washington Heights)
- Housing Conservation Coordinators (Serves 34th to 100th Streets, from 5th Ave. to Hudson River)
- Lenox Hill Neighborhood House (Serves 59th to 96th Streets, from 5th Ave. to East River, Roosevelt Island)
- Goddard Riverside Law Project (Serves SRO tenants on the west side above 14th Street and apartment tenants from 100th to 116th streets between 5th Ave. and Riverside Drive)
- Manhattan Legal Aid – 212-426-3000
- Queens Legal Services
- Queens Legal Aid – 718-286-2450
- Staten Island Legal Services
- CAMBA Legal Services – Staten Island – 646-973-1420
- Staten Island Legal Aid – 347-422-5333
Do I have a right to a lawyer in housing court?
Under the Right to Counsel law, the city provides free legal counsel to low-income tenants with eviction cases. In 2021 Right to Counsel was expanded to ALL zip codes in New York City. Any income-eligible tenant facing an eviction has the RIGHT to a free attorney regardless of what area they live in.
What is Right to Counsel?
Right to Counsel was introduced in August 2017. This bill turned the new page on the success of tenants’ movement to protect low-income tenants who are sued for eviction in housing court. No matter what kind of eviction cases that tenants have, they are able to get an attorney to defend their cases for free. Even if a tenant is over the eligible income level, they have the right to a legal consultation or advice session.
This is New York City’s promise to all tenants who face evictions. This new law protects low-income tenants to make sure they can defend themselves in court with free legal services.
How do I find out if I’m income eligible for Right to Counsel?
Tenants will have a right to an attorney if their income is at or below 200% of the poverty line, which is about $25,000 for a single person and about $53,000 per family of 4. Even if tenant’s income is over 200%, tenants might still be able to get an attorney from a legal services program with different eligibility requirement.
Where do I get an attorney for Right to Counsel?
The right to an attorney starts when your case is filed. If you are eligible, you will be referred to a tenant attorney in Housing Court, or sent to the legal service provider’s office. Once you have a court date, the lawyers from the legal service providers will call out your name to ask if you need an attorney. Next, the lawyer will do an intake with you, asking you basic questions about your income and your case. They will then schedule an appointment with you to discuss the details of your case.
Does my immigration status impact my ability to access an attorney?
Any low-income tenant who is facing an eviction case can access a free attorneys regardless of their immigration status.
Am I able to find an attorney if I am over 200% of the Poverty Line?
You may still be able to get an attorney from a legal services program with different eligibility requirements
Does Met Council on Housing offer legal represetation?
Met Council on Housing does not offer legal representation, accompany tenants to court, or give legal advice. We do have a number of tenant-assistance programs to educate tenants and inform them of their rights, including our Tenants’ Rights Telephone Hotline, our Walk-In Clinic, and the Help & Answers section of this website. We do not have lawyers on staff. Our programs are fully staffed by volunteers from our membership base. Our model is one of mutual aid: tenants helping tenants.
The information contained on this web page does not constitute legal advice and must not be used as a substitute for the advice of a lawyer qualified to give advice on legal issues pertaining to housing. For more, visit our page on Finding a lawyer.
This information pertains only to tenants living in New York City.
Many of your rights depend on the type of housing you live in or your type of tenancy. You may be subject to different laws and have different sets of rights than even neighbors in your own building. Learn which rights and responsibilities apply to you.