Public Housing Guide
General Tips for Public Housing Tenants
1. Be organized : Many public housing requirements depend on paperwork and documents. Rent checks, receipts and other documents can be critical in a potential dispute. Keep your housing documents organized and available.
2. Ask for help when you need it: Sometimes the only way to get help is to ask. Don’t assume that nobody is on your side or nobody cares.
3. Know the rules: The NYCHA has many rules and regulations for tenants. Some of them are common sense, but others may be unfamiliar to you. Read information provided by the NYCHA, talk to your neighbors, talk to NYCHA staff and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
4. Keep up with deadlines : Deadlines matter. A day late can make the difference between eviction and keeping your apartment. But, if you do miss a deadline, it’s critical to follow up immediately.
5. Stay Ahead of Problems: The best time to deal with a problem is before it becomes a problem. A worry can become a problem and a problem can become a reason for eviction. If you’re worried about something, be proactive and try to deal with it early on.
What is the process for eviction in New York City Public Housing?
There are two ways that the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) can evict a tenant from public housing. Either, the NYCHA can
1) Use “Termination of Tenancy,” or
2) Take the tenant directly to housing court
What is the difference between the two?
“Termination of tenancy” is a process unique to public housing. The process gives public housing tenants a hearing before a neutral decision-maker before they lose the benefit of public housing.
The New York City Housing Court is a part of civil court system that hears disputes between landlords and tenants. NYCHA may take a tenant to housing court for non-payment of rent. NYCHA may also take the occupant of a public housing apartment to court if the official tenant does not live in the apartment (assignment or transfer). However, in certain cases both non-payment of rent and assignment or transfer may also lead to “termination of tenancy.”
What reasons can NYCHA use “terminate of tenancy”?
For NYCHA to evict a tenant, they need to say WHY . A tenant has a right to know this reason (the “grounds” for termination). To “terminate a tenancy” (start the process of eviction) NYCHA needs at least one of these official, legal reasons.
1) Tenant or person occupying apartment is a danger or source of danger to…
-the health and safety of their neighbors
-peaceful occupation of other tenants
2) Tenant or person occupying apartment commits a “sex or morals offense” on or near a NYCHA property.
3) “Common law nuisance”: Repeated behavior of tenant (or person living with tenant)
interferes with the comfort and safety of other tenants.
-Example: Tenant creates serious danger of fire with old newspapers and frayed wires and refuses to fix the situation.
Breach of Rules and Regulations
Tenant or person living in apartment breaks a NYCHA rule. A tenant must be given a chance to fix the problem (“cure”) and/or show that they are not breaking the rule.
Chronic Breach of Rules and Regulations
Tenant or person living in apartment breaks a NYCHA rule repeatedly or many times. This could be many problems lasting years or a single problem that a tenant has been given a chance to fix.
Chronic Delinquency in the Payment of Rent
Tenant repeatedly does not pay rent on time.
A tenant fails to show that their income qualifies for NYCHA public housing. Public housing tenant are required to submit an “Occupant’s Affidavit of Income” every year. If a tenant misses the due date for this information the NYCHA may begin termination of tenancy between 30 and 45 days later.
Assignment or Transfer of Possession
The official tenant does not live at the apartment and does not have permission from NYCHA for some special circumstance.
The tenant, willfully (on purpose, intentionally)…
-Lies about or hides a material fact from the NYCHA
-A “material” fact is anything important to your public housing status or rent.
Material fact: The income of the tenant.
Not a material fact: The tenant’s favorite color.
Termination of Tenancy Process
Step One: Interview
A project manager or assistant manager interviews the tenant to discuss the problem. A tenant can use this opportunity to tell their side of the story and show that there is no reason for eviction. If a tenant fails to respond to two notices requesting an interview, a NYCHA manager can move forward with the termination of tenancy without an interview.
Step Two: Notice
If the NYCHA manager believes there is grounds (a reason, see above) for termination, a notice will be sent to the tenant (either in person or by mail). This notice will give the specific reasons the for termination of tenancy and the date of the hearing. The date of the hearing will be set to give the tenant at least 15 days notice. This notice requires the tenant to agree to attend the hearing at least 5 days before the scheduled date.
Step Three: Hearing
A termination hearing follows the general pattern of a trial. The NYCHA argues for the termination of tenancy and the tenant (and their attorney/representative) has the chance to argue against it. Witnesses may be called and cross-examined (questioned by the opposing side). Each side may offer evidence about the NYCHA charges and reason for termination. Finally, the tenant has a chance to explain any mitigating circumstances. After hearing from both sides, the neutral “hearing officer” will make a decision about the termination of tenancy.
What can I argue at the hearing?
Defenses to termination of tenancy fall into two groups: (1) Countering the grounds for termination and (2) Presenting mitigating circumstances.
(1) Countering the grounds for termination : A tenant can argue and show that NYCHA is wrong about their reason
(2) Presenting mitigating circumstances: In addition to arguing about the specific charges, a tenant can present mitigating circumstances. The tenant could mention a long positive history in public housing or explain that the original problem was out of their control but has since been fixed (Example: A family member had been using drugs but has stopped and is now in treatment).
How can I prepare for the hearing?
There are many steps tenants can take to prepare for a hearing. The steps you take will depend on your situation but may include:
Gathering evidence : Find the documents and witnesses that show that NYCHA is wrong. This can include gathering document’s your possession and examining NYCHA’s evidence against you. Before the hearing, a tenant and their a lawyer or other representative has a right to examine any material that will be used against the tenant at the hearing.
Solving the original problem: If NYCHA’s reason for termination is truly a problem, a tenant can solve the problem (“cure”).
Make sure you know the date and time of your hearing: If you miss your hearing, you may lose your chance to argue your case.
Do I have the right to a lawyer at the hearing?
A public housing tenant has a right to be represented by a lawyer or other advocate. But, there is no right to a court appointed lawyer for those who cannot afford a lawyer. Legal services or other organizations may provide representation at no cost to some tenants. Unfortunately, these organizations lack the resources to represent every tenant in public housing disputes.
Step Four: Result
The hearing officer makes a written decision on the termination of tenancy. The hearing officer can decide to approve the “termination of tenancy,” to allow the tenant to remain eligible for public housing or allow continued eligibility for public housing with probation or subject to exclusion of a certain person. If the result is “termination of tenancy,” NYCHA can move forward with eviction. This final decision may be reviewed by NYCHA based on whether the hearing followed the law and NYCHA policies but not the merits of the termination.
What is probation?
A hearing officer may decide to order probation. This may be a less than one-year period where the tenant is allowed to remain subject to conditions. During this period, a tenant is subject to termination of tenancy for violating any NYCHA rule or policy, even if it is unrelated to the original reason for probation.
Can I appeal if I the hearing officer decides to terminate my tenancy?
A tenant cannot appeal a “termination of tenancy” in housing court or through the NYCHA. A tenant can begin an Article 78 proceeding at the New York Supreme Court to appeal the hearing officer’s decision. An article 78 proceeding must be filed within four months of the decision.
Self-Help Guides & Resources :
New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)
New York , New York 10007