Criminal proceedings in the Housing Court

Housing Courts hear criminal cases that are brought to enforce local ordinances or state sanitary, building, and fire prevention codes which regulate residential housing.

Probable cause hearing

If you receive a notice in the mail of a probable cause hearing from the Housing Court, it means that a city or town inspector believes that your property is in violation of the housing codes.  You should immediately contact the inspector about any questions you may have.  

Court personnel cannot discuss the code violations with you before the hearing. Court staff have no personal knowledge of your property or the alleged violations in your case. Only the city or town, through its inspector, is familiar with the violations as a result of their inspections.

Rescheduling your hearing

If you cannot come to court on the day of your probable cause hearing, as soon as possible, you should ask the city or town to agree to “continue” (postpone) the case to a new date, and file your agreement with the court.  If they will not agree, you should file a written request for a postponement and have it heard by the clerk magistrate before the original probable cause hearing date.  Otherwise, you will be defaulted and criminal process may issue. 

What to do if you are in default

If you do not attend court on your hearing date after criminal process was issued against you, the court may issue a warrant for your arrest. Immediately, you should go to the clerk’s office and ask that your default be removed and the warrant cancelled and recalled.  If you do not do so, you can be arrested (and held in custody) on the warrant. There is a $50 fee to recall the warrant (plus an additional $75 if you are arrested by the police).  You should be prepared to pay this fee when you come to the clerk’s office.

Paying a fine

If you are found guilty of the violations and have been ordered to pay a fine, you should pay the fine at the clerk's office where your case is pending.


Tell us what you think