Here at CourtReference, we spend a lot of time looking at court systems, so we get to see types of courts in some states that you may not have in your state – yet. Courts that specialize in a particular area of the law have been around for a long time. Examples are Family Court, Juvenile Court, Tax Court, and Probate Court.
But in the past few decades, courts that specialize in a single type of case have evolved. These highly specialized courts may be a separate court, or a division or program of court of more general jurisdiction. Examples include Commercial Courts, Water Courts, and Environmental Courts. Some specialized courts focus on a particular type of behavior and try to change it through treatment instead of jail; these include Drug Courts, Veterans Courts, Mental Health Courts, and Family Dependency Treatment Courts. Some are so highly specialized that they only exist in a few states (Gun Court) or a single state (Toll Court in Washington State).
Another very busy specialized court in some states is Housing Court. These courts resolve disputes between landlords and tenants, and may also hear code violation cases. As noted in our earlier post about evictions, most such disputes are handled by courts of general jurisdiction or by some local courts of limited geographic jurisdiction. But in areas with a high density of rental properties – and thus a high number of landlord-tenant interactions – a specialized court exists.
A prime example is in New York City, which has a Housing Court division of New York City Civil Court in each of the five New York City boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island). New York City Housing Courts handle landlord/tenant disputes of any amount, and also handle housing code violations.
The Buffalo Housing Court handles eviction and code violation cases in New York State’s second-largest city, but New York – like most states – does not have housing courts operating statewide.
Massachusetts does have a statewide Housing Court with five regional divisions that have jurisdiction in 11 of the state’s 14 counties. This court has jurisdiction not only over landlord/tenant disputes, but also over all other civil and criminal actions that involve the use of any real property. That means it handles not only evictions and code violations, but also small claims, personal injury cases, property damage, contracts, discrimination, and any other claim arising out of the use of real property.
Other Housing Courts are generally found only in a state’s larger cities. Some examples:
- In Ohio, the Cleveland Municipal Housing Court and the Toledo Municipal Housing and Environmental Court both hear code violation cases as well as landlord/tenant disputes and eviction cases.
- In California, the San Francisco Superior Court’s Civil Division has a Real Propery/Housing Court that hears only landlord-tenant and wrongful foreclosure cases.
- In Minnesota, Housing Courts are found in the populous counties of Hennepin (home of Minneapolis) and Ramsey (home of St. Paul).
- In Connecticut, although there is no separate housing court, the Superior Court in each of the state’s six largest metropolitan areas has a specialized Housing Session that hears only landlord-tenant cases.
In summary, if you live in a small town, your eviction or code violation case is likely to be heard by a county or municipal court that hears many other types of cases. But if you live in a large metropolitan area, there’s a good chance that a specialized Housing Court will handle your case. Find out which courts are where, and what they do, at CourtReference.