As a crime victim, you may have concerns related to your housing needs. Maybe the crime happened at your home so you no longer feel safe. Maybe the crime happened somewhere else but you are worried that the criminal knows where you live. Maybe you experienced substantial financial consequences because of the crime and are worried that you can no longer afford your home. Or maybe the perpetrator of the crime lives with you and you need to escape. This section has information that can help.
Becoming a homeowner is often one of the happiest and most memorable moments in life, while the possibility of losing your home can be one of the most frightening. Unfortunately for some crime victims the financial effects of victimization can be overwhelming, and making their home mortgage payments can be difficult.
Below is some information that can help you if you are worried about falling behind on your home payments and are concerned about losing your home.
What is foreclosure?
Foreclosure happens after a homeowner falls behind on their mortgage payments (defaults on the loan). The bank or mortgage lender takes legal steps to force the sale of your home to get back the money owed on the home.
Usually lenders wait till a borrower is 90 days behind in their mortgage payment to start foreclosure proceedings. But when you fall 30-60 days behind on your mortgage payments, you can be at risk of foreclosure.
How long does a foreclosure case take?
It is important to know that even if you miss a couple of mortgage payments, you will not be forced to leave your home immediately. Because foreclosures in NYS go through courts, you have some time to work with the mortgage lender and the right to try to prevent foreclosure.
The length of foreclosure cases depends on where you live and how quickly the mortgage lender proceeds. Foreclosure on a home usually takes about 1.5 years if you live in upstate New York, and about 3.5 years if you live downstate. But foreclosures can happen in less than a year, so it is important for you to seek help early
What are my rights?
In NYS, homeowners facing foreclosure are protected by the Consumer Bill of Rights. Here are some of your rights and things you should know.
- You have the right to stay in your home until a court orders you to leave. You have a duty to maintain your property till then.
- You have a right to be represented by an attorney. You may be eligible for free or low cost housing counseling.
- You have the right to be free from harassment or foreclosure scams.
- You have the right to avoid foreclosure if you repay your loan in full at any time before the sale of your home, or if you agree on a settlement with the mortgage lender.
- You have the right to be notified at least 90 days before a foreclosure suit is filed letting you know that you are at risk of foreclosure.
- You have the right to explore "loss mitigation" options which may allow you to keep your home and avoid legal action. If you submit a completed loss mitigation application, the mortgage lender cannot proceed with the foreclosure lawsuit until they finish reviewing your application.
- You have the right to participate in all court proceedings related to your case, including the mandatory settlement conference required by New York law.
There are also procedures in a residential mortgage foreclosure that offer the homeowner protections:
- 90 Day Pre-Foreclosure Filing Notice: You have the right to receive a notice from the lender at least 90 days before the lender starts the foreclosure. The notice must state the amount needed to cure the default, and provide a list of at least 5 non-profit housing counseling agencies located near you.
- Answer to Complaint: If a lawsuit is filed, you can seek legal advice. Filing an answer to the foreclosure complaint will ensure that you will receive notice and stay updated about the legal proceedings.
- Settlement Conference: Once the lawsuit is filed, the court must schedule a settlement conference within 60 days. The settlement conference gives you the chance to work out a solution other than foreclosure. The lender must negotiate in good faith during the settlement conference.
I’m having trouble making my mortgage payments. What can I do?
If you are struggling to make your payments or have already fallen behind, it is completely normal to 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 earlier you contact your bank, the more options you will have.
- Use Empire Justice Center’s Web-based foreclosure guide for step-by-step help to protect yourself from foreclosure.
- Call the NYS Office of the Attorney General's Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) hotline at 855-466-3456 to be connected to a qualified not-for-profit legal services or housing counseling organization that serves homeowners in your county. HOPP is a network of over 90 housing counseling and legal services organizations across the state that provide free help to homeowners at risk of foreclosure. Hotline representatives can connect you to high-quality counseling or legal services available in each county in New York State. All services are provided free of charge.
- Contact a not-for-profit, approved Housing Counseling agency. These agencies can give you advice on your options and resources at little or no cost, and may be able to talk to your lender for you.
- If you have to refinance your home to avoid foreclosure, be aware of scammers. You can find honest and accurate information about the mortgage modification and foreclosure process at AGSCAMHELP.
- Please see NYS Website for more information and resources.
Tenants have the right to live in a safe apartment. Landlords must provide basic security to protect tenants from possible criminal harm, such as making sure the front doors are secure and have working locks. Owners of buildings that contain multiple apartment units must make sure that the entrances, stairways, and yards are lit from sunset to sunrise.
If the landlord did not keep the entrance safe, and an intruder (someone who has no right to be there) enters the building and commits a crime against you, you may be able to sue the landlord for “damages” – an award of money to pay you back for any loss you suffered.
Landlords may have an obligation to install safety precautions such as self-locking doors or intercom systems. The NY Attorney General’s office has published helpful information on the duties of landlords that own particular types of buildings and the rights of tenants.
For some crime victims, the financial effects of victimization can be overwhelming. Sometimes, crime victims may have trouble paying their rent.
Here is some information that can help you if you are falling behind on your rent payments and are concerned about losing your home.
What is an eviction?
An eviction is a court proceeding that a landlord must use to remove a tenant from the rented property. In New York State, someone who rents a home or an apartment can be evicted for several reasons, including failing to pay the rent or not obeying the rental agreement.
In order to legally evict a tenant, a landlord must start an eviction action in a 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 can evict you for not paying rent, they must tell you, in person or in writing, that you have three days to pay the rent or you will have to move out. If you can’t pay the rent in those three days, the landlord can begin eviction proceedings against you.
If your landlord believes that you are violating the terms of your lease, then the rental agreement will list the steps a landlord must take before filing an eviction.
Your landlord cannot evict you or lock you out of your home without getting a judgment from the court allowing them to evict you.
What do I do if I am illegally evicted?
If you were not given a court order allowing the landlord to evict and are locked out of your home, you can call the police. Let them know you were illegally evicted and show them your driver’s license or mail with your address on it, and they should let you back in your home.
Go to LawNY for more information about tenants’ rights during an eviction.
Our federal, state, and local laws make sure that all individuals have the right to housing. The federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to treat someone differently based on their race, color, national origin, religion, disability, sex, or whether they have children under 18 years of age. New York State Human Rights Law also makes it illegal to treat someone differently based on age, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, military status, domestic violence status, or whether they are single or married.
Consult the New York State Division of Human Rights Fair Housing Guide to find out where you can go to protect your rights. You can also file a discrimination complaint through the NYS Division of Human Rights or contact 1-888-392-3644.
You can contact 1-718-741-8332 to receive forms in alternative formats, including Spanish and Braille.
Your landlord may be required to allow you to make reasonable modifications to your rental unit or common areas, at your own expense, if necessary to allow individuals with disability use and enjoyment of a rental unit. A landlord may be required to make reasonable accommodations in the rules, policies, practices or services, if necessary, for a person with a disability to use the housing.
Victims of intimate partner violence (also called domestic violence) have additional housing protections. Below are your rights under New York State laws.
You have the right not to be discriminated against or treated differently because you are a domestic violence victim. This means landlords cannot refuse to rent to you because you are a domestic violence victim, and landlords cannot apply rules to you that the other tenants don’t have to follow.
This right also applies to parents of a minor child who is a victim of family violence.
This right does not apply to victims if the landlord lives in the building and the building has only one or two apartments.
What can I do if I think I have been discriminated against?
If a landlord violates this law, you or a family member can sue the landlord for damages (an award of money to pay you back for any loss you suffered). You may also ask for attorney’s fees if you win.
You would need to prove that the landlord refused to rent to you because you are a victim of domestic violence and for no other reason.
Consult an attorney to gain a better understanding of your rights and options.
Ending Your Lease
An intimate partner violence victim with a valid order of protection has the right to end their lease early.
In order to be safe from their abusive partner, a victim of domestic violence may need to move out of their apartment before their lease ends. Rental agreements usually require tenants to pay rent for the entire length of the lease even if the tenant ends the lease early and moves. This law gives victims who are worried about their safety more freedom to move without additional financial costs.
This right also applies to non-abusive parents of a child who is a victim of domestic violence.
A lease that asks a tenant to give up this right is illegal and cannot be enforced.
What can I do if my landlord won’t let me end the lease early unless I pay the rest of the rent?
If the landlord does not allow you to end your lease early, you can ask the court that gave you the order of protection to let you end the lease.
The court can make this order if:
- You have a valid order of protection
- At least ten days before you ask the court for help, you tell the landlord and any co-tenants (people who lease the apartment with you) that you want to end the lease.
- You show that that you asked the landlord to end the lease early, but the landlord said no.
- You show that even with the order of protection, you or your child are in danger of something called “substantial risk of physical or emotional harm” from the offender (the abusive person named in the order of protection) and that moving will be safer.
- You are doing this in “good faith”, which means for a good reason.
If the court makes this order, it can also:
- Set an early end date of the lease.
- Require you to pay all rent due until this early end date.
- Require you to leave the rental property in good condition.
What if I live with other tenants?
If there are other tenants, the court may split the lease and allow the other tenant to stay.
Eviction because of domestic violence
It may be 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. These victims were being punished for asking for emergency help and couldn’t be safe in their own homes.
If you are a victim of domestic violence and are being evicted as a result of a nuisance ordinance, contact the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Federal Subsidized Housing
Subsidized housing is a government sponsored program that offers affordable housing to people and families in need. Victims of intimate partner violence also have federal housing rights. Some of these rights include:
- Your application cannot be rejected because you are a victim of intimate partner violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking. You also cannot be evicted because of your victimization unless there is an immediate danger to other tenants.
- You have the right to remove your abuser from the lease.
- Your housing provider must accept one of the following forms of documentation of abuse: self-certification, police report, court record, statement from your counselor or lawyer.
- You have the right to have your housing provider adopt emergency transfer plans so that you can move to a safer location.
There are shelters specifically for victims of intimate partner violence. These shelters provide a safe place for victims and their children to stay for a short period of time. Some shelters allow you to bring in your pets, or will help find a safe place where your pets can be cared for. Specially trained advocates can assist victims with permanent housing, counseling, legal advocacy, and other needs.
Leaving your home and going to a shelter may seem scary, but it gives you a chance to be in a secure place while you weigh your options and plan your future free from violence.
What are my rights as a resident in a domestic violence shelter?
Within the first day following admission to the shelter program, you have the right to receive a written agreement that explains the rules of the program, such as length of program and when a resident can be evicted.
You also should receive a written notice of your rights, which include:
- Your right to confidential treatment and to stay in a safe environment.
- Your right to know that all suspected cases of child abuse will be reported to the State central registry of child abuse and maltreatment.
- Your right to have private communications, including your right to receive and send mail, and the right to leave the shelter to meet with an attorney.
- Your right to leave and return to the shelter according to the shelter’s rules.
- Your right to receive fair and respectful treatment.
- Your right to manage your own financial affairs.
- Your right to religious freedom.
Find a domestic violence program and talk to an advocate to help you decide if going to a shelter is the right choice for you.
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.
Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence Hotline: 1-800-942-6906.