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.
Homeowners have been greatly impacted by the Covid-19 crisis:
- Because of job loss and other financial problems, many homeowners are unable to meet their mortgage obligations or pay their rent.
- Some homeowners are facing housing discrimination because of direct or indirect exposure to the Covid-19 virus.
Federal, state and local governments are taking action to help homeowners and renters during the pandemic. Please check for updates as the laws are changing frequently.
NYS Homeowners Assistance Fund (HAF)
NYS Homeowners Assistance Fund, which helps homeowners who are behind on their mortgage, is no longer accepting applications, but you can register for the waiting list in case additional funds become available.
If you are experiencing financial challenges and cannot pay your mortgage, speak with your lender or mortgage servicer as soon as possible. They can discuss options that can help you stay in your home and possibly avoid foreclosure. Forbearance allows homeowners to not make mortgage payments for a certain period and modification allows homeowners to change the loan by adding in the arrears.
Do not ignore foreclosure complaints. You can attend settlement conferences where you may be able to apply for a forbearance or modification or some other option.
- You can find a lawyer to help you using the Legal Help Directory or the Find a Lawyer directory on LawhelpNY.
For helpful links and additional information, please visit NY Homes and Community Renewal.
As of 7/11/23
- If you are at risk of being homeless or need a place to stay, you can get help Finding a Shelter.
- You cannot be asked to leave a shelter based on the housing provider’s fear or guess that you have or may have been exposed to Covid-19.
- A concerned housing provider should rely on medical information and advice from public health officials to determine steps that could lessen the chance or prevent the risk of transmission.
- Housing Protections
- HUD reminds housing providers and the public that:
- Federal fair housing anti-discrimination laws protect persons from discrimination in all types of housing. This includes rental housing, nursing homes, permanent shelters and other places where people live and receive services together.
- Covid-19 discrimination based on race, national origin or other protected class of people is prohibited.
- Housing providers:
- Should not evict persons based on Covid-19 concerns;
- Housing providers should rely on reliable medical information and advice from public health officials, such as guidelines provided by the Center for Disease Control.
- HUD reminds housing providers and the public that:
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 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.
Some of the information on these pages may have been temporarily changed by governments and courts in response to Coronavirus. Please refer to our Covid-19 Housing Update.
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 and why can you be evicted?
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
- you don't follow the lease or rental agreement (violate the agreement), or
- the term of your lease comes to an end, and you do not leave the property, or
- you don't have a lease and the landlord does not want to continue your month-to-month tenancy.
To evict you, your landlord must:
- Give you the appropriate notices,
- Start an eviction case in court,
- Go to court,
- Win the case, and
- Get a court order called a “Warrant of Eviction” and have a law enforcement agency serve you with it.
If you are worried, talk to your landlord to try to work out a solution.
My landlord is threatening to evict me. What are my rights?
Before your landlord evicts you, they must follow certain rules. The rules depend on the reason for the eviction. But remember, your landlord must get a court order before they can evict you or lock you out.
Eviction for not paying rent: If your landlord wants to evict you for not paying rent, they must tell you in writing - not verbally - that you have 14 days to pay the rent or move out. If you can’t pay in 14 days, you do not have to leave. The landlord cannot lock you or cannot kick you out. To evict you, the landlord must start an eviction in court.
Eviction for lease violation: If your landlord thinks you broke or violated your lease or rental agreement, read the lease carefully. It lists the steps a landlord must take before filing an eviction.
Eviction for ending your lease or month-to-month tenancy: If your landlord does not plan to renew your lease, or if you don't have a lease and your landlord is ending your month-to-month tenancy, the landlord must provide you with written notice. The notice must be anywhere from 30-60-90 days depending on how long you have lived there. If you do not leave, the landlord cannot kick you out. To evict you, the landlord must file an eviction in court.
If you are being evicted, you have the right to an attorney. You can show up to court where there may be a free lawyer who can help you.
After a hearing with testimony and evidence, if you are evicted by the court, you will receive a warrant of eviction from a law enforcement agency (sheriff, marshal, constable). Once received, you have 14 days to vacate the property. If you live in a mobile home, you have longer.
My landlord is raising my rent. What are my rights?
A landlord must provide written notice if they plan to raise your rent by 5% or more.
Can my landlord change the locks or lock me out?
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.
For more information about your rights during eviction, please visit:
- HUD tenants rights
- NY Courts
- Legal Help Directory
- NY Attorney General Tenants' Rights Guide
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.
Updated January 24, 2023
NYS Housing Protections
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.
Protection for Domestic Violence Victims
In New York State, victims of domestic violence (also called intimate partner violence or family violence) have additional rights. These rights may apply to you as a homeowner or a tenant.
Right Against Discrimination
You have the right not to be discriminated against or treated differently because you are a domestic violence victim.
As a tenant who is a victim of domestic violence, a landlord CANNOT:
- Refuse to rent to you because you are a victim
- Say a property is not available to rent when it is actually available
- 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, or if you are renting a room.
This right against discrimination in housing also applies to the sale or purchase of a property. Property owners and realtors cannot:
- Refuse to sell you a property because you are a victim
- Say a property is not for sale when it actually is
Lenders cannot deny you a mortgage or loan because you are a victim.
What if I think I was discriminated against?
You can sue the person or business who broke the law for damages in civil court. That means they must pay for your losses. If you win, you can also ask them to pay your lawyer’s fees. Instead of court, you may file a complaint with the Division of Human Rights.
You must prove the landlord refused to rent to you because you or the owner refused to sell 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 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.
There are two (2) ways you can break your lease early to be safe from domestic violence without having to pay future rent.
1. Ask the Court to Break Your Lease
If you already have an order of protection, you can ask the court that gave you the order of protection to let you end the lease early. If there are other tenants, the court may split the lease and let the others stay.
2. Notify your Landlord you are Breaking Your Lease
You can break your lease by telling your landlord. You will not be responsible for getting the abuser to leave. There are very specific requirements to end a lease early.
You have to tell your landlord in writing and other co-tenants (but not the abuser) that you are breaking the lease. You have to include the date you are leaving which must be at least 30 days from the date you give the written notice.
That notice also has to have certain language in it. And, you must provide documentation of the domestic violence.
Your written notice must
- Tell the landlord that you or your child (or other household member) have been victims of domestic violence and the date(s) of the most recent incident(s)
- You need to break the lease because you or your child “reasonably fear staying in the dwelling because of potential further domestic violence”
- You must also give documentation of the domestic violence which may be:
- An order of protection
- A police report
- A record from a health care provider OR
- A verification from law enforcement, court employee, attorney, health care professional, mental health care professional, domestic violence program, or clergy.
A sample notice and verification are available within the law itself at subsection 2(d). You may also be able to find a sample notice on the NYS court website or in NYS courthouses.
My landlord won’t let me end the lease early unless I pay the rest of the rent. What can I do?
You can sue the landlord for damages (money) in court and for the costs of going to court.
What if I have roommates?
If your roommates are not on the lease, they will have to leave when you leave. If the abuser is your roommate, you are not responsible for getting the abuser to leave.
If your roommates are on the lease, they can continue to live there. They will have 30 days to decide if they want to stay or leave.
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.
All crime victims have the right to call 911 without facing any penalty in housing. This means that a town or landlord cannot use your calls to 911 as the reason to evict you, refuse to renew your lease, or end your tenancy. You can call 911 as often as you need to.
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. This is illegal.
If you live with someone who is abusing you, the landlord can remove the abuser from the property without evicting you.
Right to Cancel Utilities, Cable, Internet, and Phone Contracts Without Fees or Penalties
Victims of domestic violence who own their home or rent have the right to cancel utility service, cable or satellite, internet, and cell and landline telephone contracts without having to pay a cancellation fee or penalty. You must ask to terminate services in writing attesting to your status as a victim of domestic violence.
You are also allowed to get a new phone number and have your new number remain confidential without having to pay a fee.
Right to Change Your FHA Loan
If you are behind on your mortgage and have an FHA loan, as a victim of domestic violence you may have additional rights for "loss mitigation" options to help save your home from foreclosure. If your abusive partner is a co-borrower, you may be able to apply for loss mitigation without them. Your lender or loan servicer must contact you to start loss mitigation before you are 4 months behind on mortgage payments.
Your lender or loan servicer must tell you if you have an FHA loan. You can find their number on your monthly statement and ask if you have an FHA loan.
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.
For more information, go to the HUD website and look under the "What are VAWA Housing Protections" in the Frequently Asked Questions section.
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. All licensed Domestic Violence Programs must serve all victims of intimate partner violence. For more information, please go to the Domestic Violence Programs and Shelters sections of this website.
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 a 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.
Can a Domestic Violence Program deny me shelter or other services because I am trans or non-binary?
No. Denying you all services because of your sex, gender, identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation is against the law. Domestic Violence programs must serve you, but some limitations in services may be allowed, such as offering you unisex bedrooms or bathrooms in the shelter.
For more information about the rights of Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming, and Nonbinary people to access shelters, please see the Opening Shelter Doors Know Your Rights Guide on the Empire Justice Center website.
For more information about the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual and others, please go to the LGBTQ+ and Hate Crimes section of our website.
Mediation in Housing
New York State has Presumptive Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). This means that if you go to court for a housing matter, you may have the option to go to mediation to resolve the issue.
Please go to the Alternative Dispute Resolution section of this website for more information about mediation and CDRC.
How can mediation help?
Community Dispute Resolution Centers (CDRC) are funded by the NYS Unified Court System to provide free and low-cost mediation services for individuals and landlords with housing disputes. CDRC mediators can help you with issues such as:
- Rental payments
- Roommate and holder issues
- Property repair and maintenance
- Security deposits
I have a problem with my landlord. Can I get mediation help from a CDRC without going to court?
Yes, you can ask for CDRC services without involvement of the courts or other agencies. To find a CDRC near you, please go to the Legal Help Directory or go to the NY Courts website.
Developed with assistance from NYS Unified Court System, Office of ADR Programs
Updated July 20, 2021
Housing Related Scams
Foreclosure Rescue Scams
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. New York State has a network of not-profit organizations that provide free help to homeowners in foreclosure, and can negotiate with the lender.
Foreclosure rescue scam happens when a company promises to negotiate a loan modification for you but doesn’t. They usually charge fees first, promise great results, and offer a “money back guarantee.”
Other scams include:
- A lawyer who files a lawsuit without proof just to charge a fee
- Convincing a homeowner to transfer their deed to someone else
- Using fake documents to transfer property ownership.
How do I know if I can trust a mortgage assistance company?
If you are facing foreclosure, be aware of mortgage assistance companies that:
- Promise specific results
- Charge fees before they start your case
- Ask you to stop paying your mortgage and pay them instead
- Ask you to sign papers you don’t understand
- Ask you to give them (or someone else) your deed, or transfer ownership of your home
- Aggressively try to sell you their services
In New York State, it is against the law for mortgage assistance companies to charge fees before any work is done. And there is never a guarantee that you can get out of foreclosure.
Where can I get help that I can trust?
To get correct information and honest help, please visit HomeOwnerHelpNY.
What if I am a victim of a foreclosure scam?
- Call the Attorney General's Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) hotline at 855-466-3456.
- Visit HomeOwnerHelpNY
You can also:
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
- Contact the local U.S. Trustee Office if the scam involves bankruptcy.
- Find more information on Housing Scams.
Housing Rental Scams
A housing rental scam happens when someone pretends to be the owner of the rental property. The scammer lists the rental on Craigslist or other websites, but includes their own contact information, email, and phone number.
How do I know if I am a victim of a housing rental scam?
There are some warning signs that you may be involved in a housing rental scam. Be aware of a property owner who:
- Has ads and/or emails with spelling or grammar mistakes, or a lot of capital letters.
- Says they are overseas (for example, working as a missionary) or too busy to do business in person.
- Asks you to sign a lease before you see the property, or makes you pay a fee to see it.
- Offers the rental property at a much lower price than similar properties.
- Asks you for an unusually high security deposit.
- Asks you to email your completed application, but the application asks for a lot of personal information that can be used to commit identity theft.
What if I am the victim of a rental scam?
- Call the police.
- File a complaint with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center.
- Contact the publisher of the false ad. Let them know what happened.
Help With Other Needs
For immediate help and to report a crime, call 911.
Need help understanding legal terms? Please see the NY Court Help Glossary.
Need help paying for food, housing utilities, or child care? Do you need help with healthcare, disability, vocational or other services? Visit findservicesNY.gov or visit the NYS Social Programs website.
Visit the Hotlines page for national and New York State resources.