As a crime victim, you may have concerns related to your housing needs. Maybe:
- The crime happened at your home and you no longer feel safe there
- Your worried the criminal can find out where you live
- The financial losses from the crime make it hard for you to afford to stay in your home
- The criminal lives with you and you need to escape.
In our Housing section, we have information that can help you.
Buying a home can be one of the happiest moments in life, and losing your home can be one of the most frightening. If you have financial problems because of the crime, it may be hard for you to pay your mortgage. If this happens, you could be at risk for foreclosure. That means you could lose your home.
This section has information about what to do if you are worried about:
- Falling behind on your mortgage payments
- Losing your home
What is foreclosure?
Foreclosure is a when a bank or mortgage lender files a lawsuit to force the sale of a property. The bank does this to get back money owed when someone falls behind on payments.
Will I be forced to leave my home if I can’t pay the mortgage?
Even if you miss a couple of mortgage payments, you will not have to leave your home right away. A foreclosure case takes a while in the courts. That gives you time to work with your lender and try to stop foreclosure.
How long does a foreclosure case take?
The length of foreclosure depends on where you live. Foreclosure usually takes about:
- 1-1/2 years in upstate New York
- 3-1/2 years in downstate.
But sometimes it can happen in less than 1 year, so it is important to ask for help as soon as you can.
Do I have rights?
In NYS, homeowners facing foreclosure are protected by the Consumer Bill of Rights. You have a right to:
- Stay in your home until a court orders you to leave. You must keep your property in good shape.
- Have a lawyer. You may qualify for free or low cost housing counseling.
- Be free from harassment or foreclosure scams.
- Stop your home from being foreclosed if you repay your loan in full or agree to a settlement with the lender before your home is sold.
- Get notice at least 90 days before a foreclosure suit is filed against you.
- Look into "loss mitigation" options to keep your home and avoid a lawsuit. If you file a loss mitigation application, the mortgage lender cannot continue with the foreclosure until they review your application.
- Participate in all court hearings and proceedings about your case, including a settlement conference required by New York State law.
Homeowners are also protected by the following procedures:
90 Day Pre-Foreclosure Filing Notice: You have the right to get a notice from the lender at least 90 days before the foreclosure starts. The notice must :
- Say how much you have to pay to stop foreclosure
- List at least 5 non-profit housing counseling agencies near you
Answer to Complaint: If a lawsuit is filed, you can get legal advice. If you file an answer to the foreclosure complaint you will get notices and updates about your case.
Settlement Conference: The court must schedule a conference within 60 days after the lender files a lawsuit. The conference lets you:
- Negotiate with the lender
- Work out another solution
The lender must negotiate in “good faith.” This means they must act honestly and fairly.
I’m having trouble paying my mortgage. What can I do?
If you are struggling to make payment or have fallen behind, you may feel embarrassed or scared. But there are things you can do to save your home and protect your rights:
- Call your bank as soon as possible. The sooner you call, the more options you have.
- Use Empire Justice Center’s Web-based foreclosure guide. Follow the steps to protect yourself from foreclosure.
- Call the NYS Office of the Attorney General's Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) hotline at 855-466-3456. HOPP is a statewide network of over 90 housing counseling and legal services organizations. They help homeowners in danger of foreclosure in every county in New York. All services are free.
- Contact a not-for-profit, approved Housing Counseling agency. These agencies can give you free or low cost advice and resources. They may be able to talk to your lender for you.
- Watch out for scammers.
- Visit HomeOwnerHelpNY for free help and accurate information.
For more information and resources, please visit the NYS Website.
Tenants have the right to live in a safe apartment. Landlords must provide basic security to keep tenants safe.
A landlord’s duties may include:
- Making sure front doors are secure and locks work
- Lighting entrances, stairways, and yards at night in buildings with more than 1 apartment
- Installing safety devices such as self-locking doors or intercoms.
What if my landlord did not keep the entrance safe?
If the landlord did not keep the entrance safe and someone enters the building and commits a crime against you, you may be able to sue the landlord for “damages.” That means the landlord must pay you money for your losses.
Please read the Tenants’ Rights Guide for more information about a landlord’s duties.
If you are a crime victim, the financial effects of victimization can be overwhelming. You may have trouble paying your rent.
This section has information about what to do if you are worried about:
- Falling behind on your rent
- Losing your home.
What is an eviction?
Eviction is a court process. A landlord uses eviction to make a tenant leave a rented property.
If you rent a home or apartment in New York State, your landlord can evict you if you don’t pay the rent or follow the lease or rental agreement.
To evict you, your landlord must:
- Start an eviction case in court,
- Go to court,
- Win the case, and
- Get a court order called a “Warrant of Eviction.”
My landlord is threatening to evict me. What are my rights?
Before your landlord evicts you, they must follow certain rules.
Not paying rent: If your landlord wants to evict you for not paying rent, they must tell you, in person or in writing, that you have 3 days to pay the rent or move out. If you can’t pay in 3 days, the landlord can start an eviction.
Breaking your lease: If your landlord thinks you broke your rental agreement, read the lease carefully. It lists the steps a landlord must take before filing an eviction.
Remember: Your landlord must get a court order before they can evict you or lock you out.
Can my landlord evict me for calling the police too many times?
No. All residents of New York State who believe that they are in need of police or emergency assistance have the right to call for help without fear of eviction or losing their homes.
For more information, please see the "Protections for Domestic Violence Victims" tab in this section.
What if I am evicted illegally?
If the landlord locks you out of your home without a court order, you can call the police. Tell them you were illegally evicted and show them proof of your address (your driver’s license or mail). The police should let you back in your home.
Federal, state, and local laws protect everyone’s right to housing. It is against the law for a landlord to treat you differently because of:
- Race, color, or national origin
- Gender or sexual orientation
- Military status
- Domestic violence
- Being single or married
- Having children under 18
To find out how to protect your rights, please read the New York State Division of Human Rights Fair Housing Guide.
To file a discrimination complaint, please go to the NYS Division of Human Rights or call 1-888-392-3644.
To get forms in other formats, including Spanish and Braille, call 1-718-741-8332.
If you have a disability and need to make reasonable modifications to your home or common areas, the landlord may have to let you. You must pay for the changes.
If needed, your landlord may also have to make reasonable accommodations to the rules, policies, practices or services so you can use the housing.
In New York State, victims of domestic violence (also called intimate partner violence or family violence) have additional rights.
Right Against Discrimination
You have the right not to be discriminated against or treated differently because you are a domestic violence victim.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, a landlord CANNOT:
- Refuse to rent to you because you are a victim
- Give you different rules than other tenants.
This right also applies to parents of a minor child who is a victim of family violence.
This right does not apply if the landlord lives in the building, and there are only 1 or 2 apartments. ,
What if I think I was discriminated against?
If a landlord breaks the law, you can sue for damages. That means the landlord must pay for your losses. If you win, you can also ask the landlord to pay your lawyer’s fees.
You must prove the landlord refused to rent to you because you are a victim of domestic violence and for no other reason.
Right to End Your Lease Early
To be safe from their abusive partners, victims of domestic violence may need to move out of their apartment before the lease ends. Most leases say that you must pay rent until the end date on the lease even if you end the lease early and move.
But, if you are:
- A domestic violence victim with a valid order of protection, or
- The non-abusive parent of a child who is abused
you have the right to end your lease early without paying for the entire length of the lease. This helps you be safe without added financial costs.
It is against the law for a lease to ask you to give up this right.
My landlord won’t let me end the lease early unless I pay the rest of the rent. What can I do?
You can ask the court that gave you the order of protection to let you end the lease.
For the court to do this, you must:
- Have a valid order of protection.
- Tell your landlord you that you want to end the lease early. You must also tell any person who is renting the apartment with you. You must do this at least 10 days before you ask for the court’s help.
- Show you asked to end the lease early, but the landlord said no.
- Show that you or your child is still in danger of being physically or emotionally hurt by the offender, and that moving will be safer.
- Ask in “good faith.” That means you have an honest and good reason.
The court can set an earlier date to end your lease. The court can also order you to:
- Pay all rent due until this earlier end date
- Leave the property in good condition
What if I have roommates?
If there are other tenants, the court may split the lease and let the others stay.
Right not to be evicted because of domestic violence
It is illegal for your landlord to evict you (force you from your rented home) because your partner abused you in your home.
There are many towns in New York State that have something called “nuisance ordinances.” If police are called to a home a certain number of times within a given period, the property can be considered a nuisance. When police respond to a rental property repeatedly, landlords often decide to evict the tenant.
Nuisance laws are meant to discourage criminal activities, but they have been used against domestic violence victims. There have been cases where victims of domestic violence were told by the police that if they keep calling for help they will be evicted – as of 9/13/19, this is illegal. All crime victims have the right to call 911 without facing any penalty in housing. Towns that want to enforce nuisance ordinances now must notify residents and landlords and give them an opportunity to defend themselves.
If you live with someone who is abusing you, the landlord can remove the abuser from the property without evicting you.
Right to cancel cable, television, and phone contracts without fees
Victims of domestic violence have the right to cancel cable, cell, and landline telephone contracts without having to pay a cancellation fee. You must ask to terminate services in writing, and provide documentation within 6 months to prove your status as a victim of domestic violence. Documentation can include police report, orders of protection, and affidavits signed by a court employee, health care provider, domestic violence, social work, or rape crisis provider.
Federal Subsidized Housing
Subsidized housing is a government sponsored program. It offers affordable housing to people and families in need.
Victims of domestic violence also have federal housing rights. Some of these rights include the right to:
- Apply for subsidized housing. The program cannot reject you because you are a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking.
- Stay in your subsidized home. Your landlord cannot evict you unless other tenants are in immediate danger.
- Remove your abuser from your lease. You can still get the subsidy.
- Present one of the following proofs you were abused: self-certification, police report, court record, statement from your counselor or lawyer.
- Ask your housing provider for emergency transfer plans so you can move to a safer location.
New York State has emergency shelters for domestic violence victims. Leaving your home can be scary. But these shelters provide a safe place for victims and their children to stay for a short period of time. Some shelters let your pets stay with you, or will help find a place where your pets can be cared for.
Trained advocates at the shelter can help you think about your options and plan your future. They can help you with:
- Permanent housing
- Legal services
- Other needs.
What are my rights in a domestic violence shelter?
You have the right to get a written agreement and a notice about your rights. The agreement explains the program rules, such as how long you can stay and when someone can be asked to leave.
The notice describes your rights. These include the right to:
- Confidential, fair, and respectful treatment
- A safe environment
- Private communication, such as sending and receiving mail
- Meet with lawyer
- Come and go according to the shelter’s rules
- Manage your own finances
- Religious freedom
- Know that all suspected cases of child abuse will be reported to the State central registry of child abuse and maltreatment
To decide if a going to a shelter is the right choice for you, find a domestic violence program and talk to an advocate.
For immediate help and to report a crime, call 911.
Visit the NYS Social Programs website for help with housing, food, unemployment assistance, and other services.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - confidential support for people in distress: 1-800-273-8255.
Adult Protective Services: 1-844-697-3505.
The New York State Hotline for Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence: 1-800-942-6906.
National Human Trafficking Hotline: Call 1-888-373-7888 (TTY: 711) | Text 233733