Who is allowed to start an HP Action?
A Housing Part Action (HP Action) can be started by anyone who lives in the apartment legally, including:
- tenants named on the lease
- tenants without a written lease (month-to-month)
- licensees (people who live in the apartment by permission of the tenant, but do not pay rent, such as family members)
Squatters and others with no legal rights to the premises may not start a case.
You can start an HP Action as an individual, or as a group of tenants from the same building. If you file as a group of tenants, you can file one case that deals with all your issues.
Tenants can start an HP for rental apartments, cooperatives, condominium rentals or condo common areas, single and multiple dwellings, public housing (NYCHA), city-owned residential buildings, and owner-abandoned buildings.
Whom can I sue in an HP Action?
You can bring an HP Action against whoever is in control of your building, including:
- an individual owner
- a corporate owner
- a managing agent
- mortgagee/vendee in possession
- assignee of rents
- receiver, executor, trustee, lessee, agent (such as in the case of a building in forclosure)
You can find listings of the names and addresses of the owner and managing agents of NYC dwellings on the HPD website.
It’s advisable to list as many respondents as possible. This creates a better chance that someone will be held responsible for correcting the violations.
Visit HPD’s website and input your building’s address. In the page showing information about your building, click “Property Owner Registration Information” in the column on the left of the page. Everyone (including companies) should be named as a respondent in your petition.
NYC departments or agencies with jurisdiction over violations (ex. HPD) should also be listed as respondents.
What conditions can I seek to fix through an HP Action?
You can start a case based on conditions that violate Housing and Maintenance Code, the Multiple Dwelling Law, or other housing standards. Some common examples:
- leaks or damage to the apartment cause by by a flood or a water leak
- windows that are broken or cannot be opened or closed
- walls and ceilings need painting/plastering
- damaged floors
- rats, mice, roaches and bedbugs
- damaged kitchen and bathroom fixtures (such as sinks, refrigerators, toilets)
- inadequate heat or hot water
- lack of gas or electricity or defects in these services
- lead paint
- infestation of insects or vermin
- doors, or locks on doors, that are broken or not working properly
- missing or broken smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors, and/or missing or defective sprinklers
- dirt, filth, or garbage in public spaces, or inadequate janitorial services
- broken elevators, if you live in a building with elevator service
How easy is it to start an HP Action? Will I need a lawyer?
HP Actions are designed to be simple and straightforward. Nearly any tenant can file a case on his or her own.
You are not required to know the law. You will only be asked to explain the conditions that need to be repaired – or the services (like heat or hot water) that need to be restored – in your apartment.
It is very rare that tenants who start HP Actions are represented by a lawyer. You have a right to hire a lawyer if you want to, but the vast majority of tenants file cases on their own. Most of the free legal service providers that represent low-income tenants in Housing Court do not represent individual tenants who are filing HP Actions. In some cases, these organizations may consider representing a large number of tenants from the same building who are all filing a group HP Action – especially if those tenants are organized.
If you cannot find a lawyer, do not let this stop you from filing an HP Action. Organizations like Met Council on Housing can offer guidance, and you can get help in filing the papers or understanding the court process from Housing Court Answers, a nonprofit organization that staffs information tables in the Housing Courts, or at the Help Center (also known as the Resource Room) located in the Housing Courts.
What should I do before starting an HP Action (if anything)?
- Check the HPD website to see what violations are already listed for the apartment/building
- Contact the landlord in writing about the conditions (certified mail)
- Call 311 to report conditions and schedule an HPD inspection. After the inspection, the inspector
will cite violations based on the degree of hazard:
- Class A, nonhazardous violations- owner has 90 days to fix
- Class B, hazardous violations- owner has 30 days to fix
- Class C, immediately hazardous violations- owner has 24 hours to fix
What’s the procedure if I live in NYCHA public housing?
HPD will not issue violations based on conditions. Instead of calling 311, tenants should call the NYCHA Centralized Call Center at (718) 707-7771 and be sure they get a ticket number. They should also send a letter to the Housing Assistant.
NYCHA tenants start HP cases in housing court (see below), but the case will be transferred to the NYCHA part of housing court.
Is there a fee for starting an HP Action?
There is a $45 fee to file the case. You will need to pay with cash, money order, or bank check. Housing Court will not accept a personal check
Tenants must pay a filing fee of $45 or fill out a waiver to ask the judge to waive your fee.
How can I start an HP Action?
Go to the Housing Court clerk’s office in your borough. You must bring the owner’s name and address (no PO Boxes) and a list of all conditions, and the $45 fee (or ask for the Poor Person’s Relief form)
The clerk will give you 3 forms to fill out. The forms are only provided in English but you can request interpretation if needed. The forms you must fill out are:
- Request for HPD Inspection
- list ALL conditions, putting one complaint per line (the clerk will give you more pages if needed)
- If filing as a group for multiple apartments, fill out one Request per apartment
- Verified Petition
- Order to Show Cause
The judge will sign the papers and the clerk will notify you of two important dates: the date of the HPD inspection, and the return date—usually 10 days after HPD inspection.
The clerk will instruct you how to serve the papers to the respondents (your landlord or any other owners) and HPD. The instructions are on the Order to Show Cause, but you should ask the clerk as well to make sure you serve the papers correctly. Follow the service instructions carefully and keep the proof of service (eg. the receipt of certified mail); you will have to file your proof of service with the clerk on your return date. You will have to mail a separate copy of the paperwork to each respondent, even those at the same address. If you do cannot prove that you properly served the landlord, the judge may dismiss the case and you will have to start over.
Be sure to be home on the date of your HPD inspection and get the inspection number or report.
Prior to your court date, you should continue to gather evidence of apartment conditions, attempts to get issues fixed, and the HPD inspection report (you can print this from the HPD website, multiple copies can be useful). This evidence could include:
- copies of letters of you sent to the landlord about the condition and proof of service
- photographs of the conditions
- any written record of the conditions
- proof of other attempts to contact the landlord or super about the problem or a list of dates and times you contacted them about the problem
- complaint numbers from 311 calls
- if case concerns inadequate heat, a heat log
What can I expect on my first court date for an HP Action?
On your return date, you should report to the court at the time and room number noted on the Order to Show Cause. Arrive early to allow for time to get to the room, if you are late you might have to start all over again. You will find your name on the list outside of courtroom. There will be a number next to your name–check in with the court officer in the courtroom and give him this number, then wait for the landlord and/or landlord’s attorney to arrive.
You should bring all documents, including proof of service, to your court date. You will have to fill out an “affidavit of service” if you haven’t already.
When the respondents arrive, the parties—usually the landlord’s attorney, the HPD attorney, and the tenant— will discuss the case. Often, the parties try to resolve HP cases through signing a consent order (on a pre-printed HPD form, with HPD penalties build in) or a stipulation of settlement. Both should include the specific date and time that repairs will be made. You should be prepared to present documentation of the conditions and know which dates you will be able to provide the landlord access to make repairs. If the parties agree to a stipulation or consent order, the judge will look it over and ask if the parties understand and consent. This is your chance to ask the judge any questions you have.
Make sure to get a copy of the stipulation or consent order before leaving. If the parties cannot agree to consent order or stipulation, they can request a hearing.
What if my landlord doesn’t show up to court for the HP Action that I started?
If your landlord does not show up, the clerk or the HPD attorney will tell you that the landlord has defaulted. You will then have to show proof that you properly served the landlord the court papers. If you can prove that the papers were served correctly, the judge will grant an order that the landlord has to make the repair and will serve landlord a copy of this order. However, it is important that you also send a copy of the order by certified mail, return receipt requested.
If landlord does not make the repairs or contact you about making the repairs after the papers have been received, you will have to return to court.
How long do I have to wait around for workers to show up on the date the landlord agreed to make repairs in court?
The landlord must show up by noon on the day the repairs are scheduled. If they do not arrive by noon, then you do not need to stay home the rest of the day.
Am I responsible for any preparation for the repair date?
If landlord was ordered to paint, you are responsible for moving furniture to the middle of the room. If the problem is bedbugs, you are responsible for preparation for extermination (washing clothes, fabrics etc.)
What if the landlord doesn’t come to make repairs on the date agreed to in court?
If your landlord does not make the repairs by the date agreed upon in court, you will have to go back to court and file an “Order to Show Cause to Restore the Case to the Calendar.” You must go to the HP Clerk to file the Order to Show Cause.
You will get a new court date and you must serve the signed Order to Show Cause to the landlord or his attorney. At the return date, you should bring recent pictures of the conditions
If your landlord contests your position that repairs were not made, you should ask the court for a re-inspection.
If the consent order or stipulation included civil penalties, the landlord may also have to pay these penalties to HPD. Penalties are calculated per day from the date of default, and apply until the conditions are corrected:
- $10-50 overall for each A violation
- $25-1000 + $10/day for each B violation
- $50/day for each C violation (if less than 5 units in building)
- $50-150 plus $125/day for each C violation (if 5 or more units in building)
- Significant fines for heat/hot water violation
In my HP Action, can I get a rent reduction, rent abatement, or financial compensation, based on my landlord’s failure to make repairs?
No – however, filing an HP Action to get repairs does not prevent you from also withholding rent.
In some cases, tenants file an HP Action to get repairs – and when the repairs are complete, the tenant withholds rent after the fact with the goal of getting a rent abatement. Tenants who are considering withholding their rent are always strongly encouraged to get legal counsel first. Withholding rent is taking a significant risk and can result in eviction from your apartment.
HP Action vs. Withholding Rent:
There are many advantages to HP Actions rather than withholding rent. Withholding rent can be inefficient and dangerous. You can start an HP Action whenever you are ready, whereas if you withhold rent you will have to wait for your landlord to sue you in court and present the conditions as your defense. Landlords usually wait two or three months – or longer – before filing a case against a tenant who has not paid rent. You will have to suffer with the lack of repairs or services during this time. Withholding rent can be risky and carries the risk of eviction. In HP Actions, your landlord is the defendant.
If HPD already wrote a violation against my landlord for repairs or services, why do I have to go to Housing Court?
Calling 311 and getting a violation written by HPD (the City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development) is a useful first step, but many tenants don’t realize that a violation often does not result in further action by the agency.
While HPD issue a violation against the landlord, they rarely take further actions to enforce compliance.
A violation can stay on record for years without any agency taking action. In Housing Court, you can get a court order from a judge in the matter of a couple of weeks – or sooner for emergency conditions.
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.