Finding a Lawyer

Finding a Lawyer

You should know...

it is generally a good idea to have an experienced tenant lawyer representing you on important housing matters such as evictions. However, many tenants cannot afford to hire a private lawyer, and getting free legal representation can be different, even for those who qualify.

Below are some tips and referrals for New York City tenants seeking legal representation on housing matters.

Legal Disclaimer:

The information contained on this web page does not constitute legal advice and must not be used as a substitute for the advice of a lawyer qualified to give advice on legal issues pertaining to housing.

This information pertains only to tenants living in New York City.

Many of your rights depend on the type of housing you live in or your type of tenancy. You may be subject to different laws and have different sets of rights than even neighbors in your own building. Learn which rights and responsibilities apply to you.

 

What types of tenants are eligible for free legal representation in housing court?

 

You may be able to get help if:

  • An eviction case has been filed against you

  • You are low-income

  • If you live in right to counsel district

  • A lawyer may be able to prevent you from being evicted from the apartment

You will probably not be able to get help if:

  • Your housing issue is not about an eviction (exceptions apply for some extreme repair issues)

  • Your landlord has not started an eviction case yet (falling behind in the rent, threats of eviction, and pre-eviction papers are not enough)

 

 

How can I hire a private lawyer for my housing issue?

In some cases, a good tenant lawyer will make all of the difference. Be advised that the law firms below represent tenants for a fee and do not give general advice over the phone.

Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph
Phone: 646-666-8496
Toll Free: 888-282-8431
http://www.hmgdjlaw.com/

Collins, Dobkin, & Miller LLP
(212) 587-2400
www.collinsdobkinmiller.com

Grad & Weinraub, LLP
212-732-0400
cgrad@grad-weinraub.com

John D. Gorman
212-509-8664

Bierman & Palitz, LLP
(212) 509-8664

Sokolski & Zekaria, P.C.
212-571-4080
sokolski.zekaria@mindspring.com

Jamie Fishman
(212) 897-5840

Peggy Collen
646-238-9757
http://pcollenlaw.com/ 
 
Alterman & Boop LLP
(212) 226-2800
http://www.altermanandboop.com/

George S. Locker
(212) 496-0593
www.tenantsservices.com 

McAdams Law
212-406-5145
www.mcadamslaw.net

Kenneth B. Hawco
212-874-7717
www.kbhawco.com

William E. Leavitt
212-897-5852

Susan Crumiller
info@crumiller.com
(212) 390-8480 

The above list is of experienced lawyers and law firms who specialize exclusively in New York City tenant-landlord law, and who only represent tenants (never landlords).

When choosing a private lawyer, you may want to consider:

  • Does your lawyer represent only tenants, and never landlords? A lawyer who represents both tenants and lawyers may be knowledgeable about the court process, but there may be a conflict of interest. In most cases, housing lawyers will have many more landlord clients than tenant clients. Your own landlord may have hired the law firm in the past, and/or may do so again in the future. Also, the lawyer may be much more experienced in fighting for the interests of landlords and may be unfamiliar with many parts of the law that can benefit tenants. Met Council on Housing suggests that tenants find a lawyer who only represents tenants.
  • Does your lawyer specialize in New York City landlord-tenant law? Simply being a lawyer doesn't mean that you know New York City tenant-landlord law. NYC housing laws are extremely complex, and many people spend a career focusing entirely on this. A lawyer who does other types of law (immigration, divorce, criminal defense, etc) will not be as familiar all of the issues. Met Council on Housing suggests that tenants find a tenant lawyer who specializes in NYC housing matters.

 

Where can I go for free legal assistance?

 

It is getting easier to get a free lawyer but it still may be difficult, as right to counsel is rolled out. If you are unable to get a lawyer, make sure you prepare yourself best to defend yourself in court.
A good starting point in your search for free legal services is: LawHelp.org/NY

 

Citywide (or non-area specific):

Special categories:

YOUTH: The Door Legal Services Center  Serves people between the ages of 12 and 21 city-wide/

The Family Center - Caretakers who care for minor children due to parental illness, abense, or loss; Families with adolescents who are at-risk of out-of-home placement.

MEDICAL: The Family Center - Individuals with HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes; caretakers of children exposed to HIV.

Bronx:

Brooklyn:

Manhattan

Queens:

Staten Island:

 

Do I have a right to a lawyer in housing court?

The government provides free legal counsel to tenants facing eviction who cannot afford a lawyer. The right to free legal counsel for low-income people does apply to eviction cases. It currently depends on tenants’ zip codes and income.

 

If tenants live in the following zip codes, tenant attorneys have to take their cases - they have the RIGHT to an attorney. Attorneys are free.

Brooklyn: 11216, 11221, 11225
Bronx: 10457, 10467, 10468
Manhattan: 10026, 10027, 10025
Queens: 11433, 11434, 11373
Staten Island: 10302, 10303, 10314

 

 

What is Right to Counsel?

 

Right to counsel was introduced in August 2017. This bill turned the new page on the success of tenants’ movement to protect low-income tenants who are sued for eviction in housing court. No matter what kind of eviction cases that tenants have, they are able to get an attorney to defend their cases for free. Even if a tenant is over the eligible income level, they have the right to a legal consultation or advice session.

This is New York City’s promise to all tenants who face evictions. This new law protects low-income tenants to make sure they are able to defend with free legal services


Can all tenants get a lawyer right now?

Attaining a systematic change is a huge job and it takes time to get all the involved parties ready. Changes take a lot of time. Therefore, it is impossible to jump from where we are today to everyone having an attorney tomorrow. Therefore, the right to counsel only applies to a few zip codes as of now.

Each year, City of New York will roll out more zip codes.

The government provides free legal counsel to tenants facing eviction who cannot afford a lawyer. The right to legal counsel for low-income people apply to civil cases. It depends on tenants’ zip codes.

If tenants live in the following zip codes, tenant attorneys have to take their cases - they have the RIGHT to an attorney. Attorneys are free.

Brooklyn: 11216, 11221, 11225
Bronx: 10457, 10467, 10468
Manhattan: 10026, 10027, 10025
Queens: 11433, 11434, 11373
Staten Island: 10302, 10303, 10314

Met Council on Housing has long advocated for the right to legal representation for all tenants who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. Winning this will only come about through sustained organizing and advocacy.


How do I find out if I’m income eligible for Right to Counsel?

Tenants will have a right to an attorney if their income is at or below 200% of the poverty line(info where they can find the poverty line-e.g. Tax receipt,qualification, grid), which is about $23,000 for a single person and about $49,000 per family of 4. Even if tenant’s income is over 200%, tenants are still able to get an attorney from a legal services program with different eligibility requirement.


Where to get an attorney for Right to Counsel?

If you’re eligible, you will be referred to a tenant attorney in Housing Court, or sent to the provider’s office.

The right to an attorney starts when you case is filed. If you are eligible, you will be referred to a tenant attorney in Housing Court, or sent to the provider’s office. Once you have a court date, the pro bono lawyer (through legal service provider) who are hired by the city will call out your name and check if you need an attorney. The intake process varies depending on the courthouse. Some courthouses may talk to tenants in an office and some courthouses may talk to tenants in the hallway. Housing court will ask basic questions that are related to your case and your income level. The attorney will file an official notice if you want an attorney to represent you. Moreover, the attorney will schedule an appointment with you to discuss further about your case.

The zip code model is TEMPORARY. In 5 years, or by 2022, zip codes will be irrelevant, and everyone who is income eligible will have the right to an attorney.

Does my immigration status impact my ability to access an attorney?

Your immigration status does not impact your ability to have an attorney.

Am I able to find an attorney if I am over 200% of the Poverty Line?

You may still be able to get an attorney from a legal services program with different eligibility requirements

Does Met Council on Housing offer legal represetation?

Met Council on Housing does not offer legal representation, accompany tenants to court, or give legal advice. We do have a number of tenant-assistance programs to educate tenants and inform them of their rights, including our Tenants' Rights Telephone Hotline, our Walk-In Clinic, and the Help & Answers section of this website. We do not have lawyers on staff. Our programs are fully staffed by volunteers from our membership base. Our model is of mutual aid: tenants helping tenants.

 

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