the dwelling has a C of O for single family , landlord has 3 apartments in the dwelling. She also is in court for the illegal apartment and other building code violations. I withheld my rent as soon as I was served the foreclosure papers. She is now looking to evict me. What are my rights
Dear Levittown Tenant:
There are two major impediments to the landlord's summary proceeding based on a default in paying rent after service of a three-day rent demand.
One is that the house lacks a residential certificate of occupancy for three apartments. The last legal status is single family, as you observed, so there is no C of O for the altered building. A New York landlord is disabled from successfully prosecuting a nonpayment proceeding where a C of O is required and the building is lacking the C of O. The defense based on the landlord lacking the statutory right to maintain the nonpayment proceeding is tricky, and the tenant should consider hiring an attorney may avoid real damage.
The second is based on the landlord's failure to register the three-dwelling unit house as a multiple dwelling. Even when the additional dwelling units are not legal, the owner still converted the building to a multiple dwelling and is barred from suing for rent based on the creation of an illegal and unregistered multiple dwelling. The defense to a nonpayment proceeding on grounds that the landlord is barred from maintaining the proceeding based on failing to register a multiple dwelling (See New York State Multiple Residence Law) is technical and requires the assistance of an attorney.
Judges often work their way around these technical issues, as ultimately, the landlord will be allowed to evict you for some reason, but perhaps not for defaulting in paying rent. A self-represented tenant runs the risk that the judge and the landlord's attorney would try to convince the tenant to accept a "conversion" of the case to a summary holdover proceeding, in which case, the unpaid rent is not an issue and all that the court is concerned with is the landlord's right to possession. Since all judges have a tendency to give back rented illegal dwellings to the landlord, without an attorney, even with the law on your side, the tenant runs the risk that everyone other than you wants to take a short-cut to justice and try to get you evicted in a case that should be dismissed.
Hire an attorney.
She can evict you because you have not paid rent. However, if you mention your leased space is illegal, it is unlikely the Court will order you to pay any back rent. Beyond that, you should speak to an attorney to discuss your matter in order to determine the best course of action.