The Risk of Landlords Representing Themselves in New York City

Statue of Justice
Justice is imagined as fair and impartial but favors being prepared and innovative

Often times a small homeowner becomes the most limited of all specialists – a jack of all trades. While being the owner of the property, as a matter of expediency, you also serve as the manager of the property, the contractor for the property, and sometimes the lawyer of the property.

Representing yourself in Court can be tricky. The New York Courts provide a great deal of help for those who want to represent themselves. Information on evictions and non-payments in and outside of NYC can be found here   https://www.nycourts.gov/courthelp/Homes/evictingTenant.shtml and here https://www.nycourts.gov/CourtHelp/DIY/index.shtml.

However, representing yourself has Pros and Cons. The pros are:

  • You may save money
  • You are the person most familiar with the tenant’s history and property.

The Cons are:

  • The laws are very specific and unforgiving if you make a mistake.
  • A mistake can cause your case to be dismissed.
  • Appearing in Court could take hours and multiple days before the matter is resolved.

In addition, under the new Tenant Protection Act, tenants are increasingly expected to hire a lawyer to advance their grievances. The pitfalls of the legal system in New York for landlords are more than just “bumps in the road”.  Don’t speed ahead without navigation.  Chart your course carefully.

Before choosing to represent yourself, consider hiring an attorney. The New York City Small Homeowners Association (NYCSHA) can assist with the decision on whether to consult with a lawyer. Sometimes, law self-help center or material can be sufficient. If you can represent yourself effectively, then it could be a good idea to educate yourself and save money. However, when you have to prove your case, housing court may require specific protocols or specialized legal tactics. Review the legal entity under which your lease is signed. Be advised if you are filing your lawsuit as a corporation, you may be prohibited from pro se, (on behalf of oneself) representation. Membership in NYCSHA not only keep you aware of issues impacting ownership but also can assist in connecting you with Landlord Tenant Attorneys.

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