Finding a Lawyer
Finding a Lawyer
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.
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.
You may be able to get help if:
- An eviction case has been filed against you
- You are low-income
- 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)
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.
Grad & Weinraub, LLP
John D. Gorman
Bierman & Palitz, LLP
Sokolski & Zekaria, P.C.
Jack L. Lester
George S. Locker
Kenneth B. Hawco
William E. Leavitt
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.
Remember that obtaining a free lawyer for your housing issues is difficult. 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):
- Legal Aid Society of New York - Civil Practice Programs and offices city-wide.
- Legal Services NYC Programs and offices city-wide. - Legal Services NYC citywide network
- City Bar Association Legal Clinic and Hotline Serves all of NYC.
- MFY Legal Services Area served varies by program.
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.
- Bedford-Stuyvesant Community Legal Services
- South Brooklyn Legal Services Housing Unit
- Brooklyn Legal Services Corp. A
- Legal Services NYC-Brooklyn Branch
- CAMBA Legal Services
- Manhattan Legal Services
- Northern Manhattan Improvement Corp. Legal Services Serves Washington Heights and Inwood.
- Eviction Intervention Services Serves 42nd - 72nd Streets from 5th Ave. to East River, Roosevelt Island.
- Housing Conservation Coordinators Serves 34th - 72nd Streets west of 8th Ave.
- Lenox Hill Neighborhood House Serves 59th to 96th Streets from 5th Ave. to East River, Roosevelt Island.
- West Side SRO Law Project Serves SRO tenants on West Side north of 14th St.
Unlike for defendents in criminal matters, the government does not provide free legal counsel to tenants facing eviction who cannot afford a lawyer. The right to free legal counsel for low-income people does not apply to civil cases the way it does for criminal cases.
In housing court, the vast majority of landlords have legal representation, and the majority tenants do not. Studies show that landlords hire lawyers for about 98% of the eviction cases they begin, while about 90% of tenants facing eviction do not. This puts tenants at a serious disadvantage, and results in many tenants being misled about their rights and taken advantage of by their landlords.
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.
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.