Eviction

A tenant with a lease is protected from eviction during the lease period so long as the tenant does not violate any substantial provision of the lease or any local housing laws or codes. For both regulated and unregulated apartments, landlords must give formal notice of their intention to obtain legal possession of the apartment.

Unless the tenant vacates the premises by a specified date, the landlord may commence eviction proceedings through: (a) a summary non-payment court proceeding to evict a tenant who fails to pay the agreed rent when due and to recover outstanding rent, or (b) a summary holdover proceeding for eviction if a tenant significantly violates a substantial obligation under the lease (such as using the premises for illegal purposes, or committing or permitting a nuisance) or stays beyond the lease term without permission. Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law (RPAPL) § 711.

Landlords of rent regulated apartments may be required to seek approval from DHCR before commencing a court proceeding, depending on the grounds for eviction. Where a tenant fails to pay rent, is causing a nuisance, damages the apartment or building, or commits other wrongful acts, the owner may proceed directly in court. Other grounds, such as where the owner seeks to demolish the building, require that the owner first receive approval from DHCR.

A tenant can be legally evicted only after the landlord has brought a court proceeding and has obtained a judgment of possession. A tenant should never ignore legal papers; an eviction notice can still be sent if a tenant did not appear in court to answer court papers (petition) sent by the landlord.

Only a sheriff, marshal or constable can carry out a court-ordered warrant to evict a tenant. Landlords may not take the law into their own hands and evict a tenant by use of force or unlawful means. For example, a landlord cannot use threats of violence, remove a tenant’s possessions, lock the tenant out of the apartment, or willfully discontinue essential services such as water or heat. When a tenant is evicted, the landlord may not retain the tenant’s personal belongings or furniture. The landlord must give the tenant a reasonable amount of time to remove all belongings. RPAPL §749; Real Property Law § 235.

A tenant who is evicted from an apartment in a forcible or unlawful manner is entitled to recover triple damages in a legal action against the landlord. Landlords in New York City who use illegal methods to force a tenant to move are also subject to both criminal and civil penalties. Further, the tenant may be entitled to be restored to occupancy. RPAPL § 853; NYC Admin. Code § 26-523, § 26-521.

Additional rules apply in certain situations concerning evictions. In New York City, a landlord may not evict a tenant in a rent stabilized apartment for purposes of owner occupancy if the tenant or the spouse of the tenant is a senior citizen or is disabled, unless the landlord provides an equivalent or superior apartment at the same or lower rent in a nearby area. In rent controlled apartments statewide and in rent stabilized apartments outside New York City, a landlord may not evict a senior citizen, a disabled person, or any person who has been living in the apartment for 20 years or more for purposes of owner occupancy. 9NYCRR § 2524.4; 9 NYCRR § 2504.4; NYC Admin. Code § 26-408(b)(1).

It is wise for tenants to consult an attorney to protect their legal rights if the landlord seeks possession of their apartment.

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