Housing Court Terms

Adjournment: When the court temporarily halts proceedings in a given case at either party’s request or for the court’s own reasons and sets a date for the parties to return to court to continue the proceeding.

Default: Failure to appear in court or fulfill an agreement. A default by either party can result in a judgment in their opponent’s favor.

Inquest: A one-sided court proceeding that allows a party to present his or her case to the judge without the opponent present. A party may conduct an inquest if the opposing party fails to appear in court as instructed.

Mediation: The process through which court-appointed mediators assist parties in a legal dispute to make a mutually fair agreement and to understand its terms and conditions.

Order to Show Cause (OTSC): A legal document used to initiate a special proceeding, or to request the entry or the return of a case to the court calendar. Among other reasons, tenants may request an OTSC to hold owners accountable for defaulting on an agreement, request more time to pay arrears, or stop an eviction. The OTSC has the effect of staying the proceeding from going forward and keeps the parties in the same position.

Petition: A legal document that sets out the petitioner’s claim for judicial relief.

Petitioner: The party who initiates the case.

Pro Se: This Latin term means “by yourself” and refers to parties in a legal dispute that represent themselves in court, without legal counsel.

Rent Abatement: A one-time reduction in rent to compensate tenants for an owner’s failure to make repairs after court orders or stipulations.

Respondent: The party in a court case who must answer the special proceeding begun by the petitioner.

Stipulation: A court document that lists the terms and conditions of an agreement between a tenant and an owner.

Three-Day Notice: Refers to the amount of time tenants have to pay arrears after receiving a written or verbal request for payment from the owner. If a tenant fails to pay arrears after three days, the owner may initiate legal action against the tenant.

Transverse Hearing: A court hearing held to determine whether a party properly served court papers to another party.

Warrant of Eviction: A legal document issued by the court that empowers a marshal to remove a tenant from an apartment after the appropriate five-day notice expires. Only the marshal’s office may serve and execute a warrant of eviction.

With Prejudice: When the petitioner gives up the right to seek further legal action at a later date. If a case is discontinued with prejudice, it may not be brought again.

Without Prejudice: When the petitioner reserves the right to seek further legal action at a later date. If a case is discontinued without prejudice, it may be brought again.

A website of the NYC Commission on Human Rights and the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development

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