A woman, 7 months pregnant, and with 2 young children, 1 of whom is disabled, went to Civil Court to file a petition for being illegally locked out of her apartment. At Civil Court she was told she had to go to Housing Court to file. After laboriously walking to Housing Court, she was told that she had to file her petition back at the Civil Court. Ultimately, the Housing Court clerk did locate the correct form and allowed the tenant to file it there.
What SHOULD Have happened?
The tenant should not have been refused at the first courthouse. Clear and consistent information on where to go to resolve an issue and what will happen there should be made available to all.
Why Does This Matter?
The Court system is confusing and inefficient, not only to the public, but even for people inside the courts. The confusing state of the archaic court structure erodes the public’s trust that the institution can resolve their legal problems.
What DID Happen:
A tenant in the Bronx was locked out of her rent-stabilized apartment by her landlord when she was 7 months pregnant. She could not access her personal and medical documents in the apartment, nor those of her two children. This posed a serious problem because one of her children is disabled and received home health care, and the agency was requesting his updated Medicaid information, which was locked inside the apartment.
The tenant went to Civil Court at 851 Grand Concourse to file an illegal lockout petition and said her landlord was harassing her. But a clerk there told her that since it was a housing-related case, she had to go to Housing Court at 1118 Grand Concourse.
The tenant walked slowly and laboriously over to Housing Court, where she was told by yet another clerk that, although this was the Housing Court, illegal lockout cases aren’t heard there, and she needed to go back to the Civil Court at 851 Grand Concourse to file the petition. The tenant started to cry, and the clerk sympathetically searched for an illegal lockout petition form to let her fill out in Housing Court, and generously offered to help her by letting her file it there, instead of walking 5 blocks back over to the Civil Courthouse.