Lengthy Delays in Landlord-Tenant Proceedings – Will a Lawsuit Help?

delay-300x228A recent case was filed in Supreme Court, Queens County by a group of corporations under the umbrella of the LeFrak Organization – one of the largest landlords in Queens.  The lawsuit was brought as an Article 78 proceeding.  An Article 78 proceeding is a lawsuit brought against a New York State official, or New York administrative agency, in which the plaintiff seeks to overturn a decision made by the official or agency on the grounds that it violated New York law.

The plaintiffs in this action seek reform of the handling of housing court cases in Queens County, in which long delays have been the rule, rather than the exception.  New York housing courts have jurisdiction over eviction cases, which can be brought as summary proceedings.  As the name “summary proceedings” suggests, these cases are meant to be brought in an expedited matter, and are supposed to be heard and resolved more quickly than actions brought in New York Supreme Court.

Under current New York law, housing court cases are required to be scheduled by the Court for an appearance in Court between three and eight days after a tenant responds to an eviction petition.  If the tenant fails to respond, or fails to appear on the return date, the landlord-tenant court is supposed to issue a warrant of eviction, as well as a judgment in favor of the landlord.

However, the lawsuit filed by the landlord group alleges that these requirements are not being met, and are being ignored by the Courts.  Instead, cases are being scheduled for months after they have been filed, and are being further delayed by administrative adjournments ordered by the Courts.  A backlog of cases from the COVID era may be partially responsible for these delays.  Another contributing factor to these delays is a current lack of Court staff, including Judges, to handle the large amount of cases.  A large influx of professional personnel may be necessary to keep eviction cases moving as anticipated and allow all parties a speedy resolution.

In the meantime, what can a landlord do in light of the current long delays by the Court?  We would suggest experienced counsel be engaged who are familiar with the Court system, and are able to navigate the inevitable delays.  Additionally, parties should try to settle possible eviction cases “out of Court” where possible, as relying on multiple appearances and inevitable adjourments in landlord-tenant court may simply take too long to resolve certain situations.

Other attorneys representing landlords are considering bringing similar actions in other boroughs of New York City, where there are similar delays.  Large cities in New York State, but not in New York City, such as Yonkers and White Plains are also susceptible to delays in issuing judgments and warrants of eviction, even after Judges have ruled in a landlord’s favor.

Our firm will continue to monitor the status of the Queens lawsuit, and will update this blog as future developments warrant.

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