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A Brief Overview of Residential Landlord-Tenant Cases

Posted by attorney Edward Dowling

A Landlord -Tenant Relationship can be established either by 1) the Landlord and the Tenant entering into a Written Lease or by 2) an unwritten agreement for an unspecified amount of time, but with the rent specified, such as on a weekly or a monthly basis.

If a written lease is used it usually specifies the main terms of the agreement such as the Term of the lease ( usually for a period of time expressed in months or years), whether the lease gives the tenant the right to renew the lease ( usually upon a specified number of days Notice to the Landlord ) , whose responsibility it is for maintenance and repairs, what fixtures are included, and what fixtures or modifications to the premises the Tenant is permitted to make, whether the tenant is permitted to have pets, and if so, what kind and how many, whether the Landlord has a Right to Enter the Premise s for purposes of showing the rental unit to potential tenants, inspection and maintenance and repairs, and many other terms describing the Landlord-Tenant Relationship.

Landlord Tenant Law can apply to different types of housing arrangements such as a typical single family house in which the tenant rents a room or part or even all of the house, an apartment in an apartment house, a condominium, a rental unit in a cooperative association and others. There are also different laws that may or may not apply depending upon the circumstances, such as Rent Control, Rent Stabilization, Government Subsidized Housing , Emergency Assistance Laws and Statutes, etc. Different laws apply in New York City than in Nassau and Suffolk and other Counties in New York State. These laws are not limited to Rent Control and Rent Stabilization, but also apply to proceedings regarding eviction and other proceedings. A discussion of the extent of all the different Laws, Statutes and Regulations and Case Law constituting Landlord-Tenant Law is way beyond the scope of this brief overview.

In the event of a dispute between the Landlord and the Tenant there are 2 main proceedings that are commonly used. 1) A Non-Payment Proceeding and 2) A Holdover Proceeding.

A Non-Payment Proceeding is the more common one and is used, as suggested by its name, by the Landlord when the Tenant has not been paying rent according to their Agreement , whether a written lease or otherwise, and the Landlord wants payment and or to evict the tenant.

A Holdover Proceeding, unlike a non-payment proceeding ( which can be brought at any time the tenant is behind in the rent )can only be brought when the tenant " holds over “- that is, remains on the premises without permission after the expiration of the term of the agreement ( usually a written lease).

The Laws, (Statutes, Regulations and Case Law) regarding both non-payment and holdover proceedings is very technical regarding the prerequisites to filing the Petitions for these proceedings such as the amount and type of Notice the Landlord must give to the Tenant, the manner and time period in which the Tenant must be Served with the Notices and Petitions that start the proceedings. A further discussion of these technicalities is beyond the scope of this article.

There is generally an inherent conflict of interest in either of these proceedings which is that generally the Landlord wants payment and/or that the tenant move out as soon as possible in order to rent the premises to a new tenant, while the tenant wants to delay the proceeding as long as possible in order to find another place to live. Sometimes however, neither the Landlord nor the Tenant wants the Tenant to move out but rather the dispute is something like the following : The Landlord wants the tenant to pay the full amount of rent on time each month, the tenant is withholding some or all of the rent and/ or pays late because he believes he has Counterclaims against the Landlord for things such as : the Landlord is not providing enough, or any heat, electricity, hot water or is not making necessary repairs in a timely and satisfactory manner.

Most Landlord-Tenant disputes do not go to trial and instead are settled by the parties, although this usually takes place at the Court with attorneys, since the parties usually cannot resolve their dispute without the assistance of attorneys and the court. If the parties, with the assistance of the Court and their attorneys, reach an agreement to settle the matter, then one of the attorneys will write up, on a form provided by the court, A Stipulation of Settlement which specifies the terms of the agreement in detail. This Stipulation should be and usually is " So Ordered " by the Judge. This means that by the Judge signing and So ordering the Stipulation, that instead of the Settlement merely being an agreement by the parties ( which a party would have to sue the other party for any breach of the agreement) the Stipulation of Settlement now becomes a Court Order having the same force and effect as a court order after a trial and if either party breaches the agreement, then instead of having to commence a lawsuit against the party, they can now go to court to punish the breaching party for contempt of court, since a violation of a court order is contempt.

If the parties are unable to settle the matter then a full trial will be had with either party having a right to appeal the decision to a higher court, similar to other types of cases .

Watch for future articles on Criminal and Civil Law.

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