Half the Battle is Just Showing Up: Non-Answers and Default Judgments in Non-Payment Eviction Cases Across New York State

The goal of this brief is to describe the prevalence of tenant non-answers and default judgments, identify trends over time between 2016 and 2022, and explore variation in these rates in jurisdictions across New York State. We focus on non-payment cases (those filed for non-payment of rent) rather than holdover cases (those filed for any other reason, such as lease violations), as the vast majority of eviction filings in New York State are non-payment cases.

We find that answer rates are fairly stable over time, with pre-pandemic answer rates hovering around 50 percent in New York City and 60 percent among other jurisdictions in New York State. (These shares flip in the pandemic period, with higher answer rates in New York City than in other jurisdictions.) However, these averages conceal considerable variation. Many cities have very low rates of unanswered cases, while another sizable set of cities have high rates of unanswered cases. We also find suggestive evidence that the universal access to counsel (UAC) program in New York City may reduce both non-answer rates and the likelihood that a non-answer results in a default judgment.

The Housing Crisis Research Collaborative aims to address the longstanding inequities in access to safe, stable, and affordable rental housing that have been laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic. We provide policymakers at all levels of government with the data and analysis they need to design, implement, and evaluate more equitable and effective rental housing and community development responses to the pandemic and the ongoing rental housing affordability crisis. For more visit:

The Housing Crisis Research Collaborative is supported by the Wells Fargo Foundation and JPMorgan Chase & Co., and managed by the Urban Institute. We are grateful to them for allowing the Collaborative to advance its goals.

This research does not represent the institutional views (if any) of research funders, NYU, NYU School of Law or the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. Funders do not determine research findings or recommendations in research and policy reports by the NYU Furman Center.