Inquest for NYC Landlords: What to do with a default judgment against a tenant | law office of richard kistnen

In NYC, hundreds of Landlord-Tenant cases are scheduled each day.  Comparable to debt collection lawsuits, many tenants fail to show up to court when scheduled.  It’s a difficult path to navigate: some people choose not to show up; others have a job that barely gets them by so they have to make the tough choice of going to work or going to court; others have extenuating circumstances that come up that cause them not to appear in court.  As a landlord, it isn’t easy, either.  Many of the landlords I’ve worked with come to me after three or four months of rent haven’t been paid, and they want quick resolution of their case.  Whether fortunately or unfortunately, the NYC court system has a process to deal with its cases, and a specific track to deal with landlord-tenant cases.

Generally, a landlord would have had to serve some kind of notice before the case can commence, whether a holdover or non-pay matter.  Assuming the time in the notice expired and the issue hasn’t been resolved, the landlord can then file and serve a Notice of Petition and Petition.  After filing the Notice of Petition and Petition, the court will have scheduled a date for the parties to appear, usually for a conference the first time.  If the parties cannot resolve the dispute during this first conference, the matter is generally scheduled for trial the next time.  It’s often in one of these two appearances that the landlord is in court, and the tenant has failed to appear.  Once the court clerk goes through the calendar and notes a non-appearance by the tenant, a default is entered.  As a landlord, you may have thought that was the end of the process, but it isn’t.  The court clerk will then give you a date to return for INQUEST.  An inquest is a hearing where you, as the plaintiff, have to prove to the court your case when the defendant has failed to appear.  That is, although the defendant-tenant didn’t show up, you still have to demonstrate to the court that you did everything you were supposed to do, and that you are entitled to the relief you’re seeking.

In the Landlord-Tenant inquest, especially for landlords without attorneys, the judge will help guide you through the inquest.  To give you an idea of what has to be addressed, you have to demonstrate the landlord-tenant relationship; what was the issue that caused the holdover/non-pay; whether you properly served the initial notice; whether you properly served the notice of petition and petition; and any damages you are requesting.  Be sure that your affidavits of service are complete and that service was proper.  Be sure that the building you own or manage isn’t subject to some special laws or codes.  Once you demonstrate your case, the judge will enter a judgment that you can then send to a city marshal for execution.

If you are a landlord and would like to discuss a matter you have, feel free to contact LORK.  LORK represents landlords in Queens and Brooklyn.

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