Eviction is usually the most dire situation a tenant can face. Let's begin by stating clearly that if you are a tenant in Nassau or Suffolk, the only person who can legally remove you from your premises is a Sheriff acting on a court order by a Judge's decision. The following explains all about different types of evictions. LIHS urges you to consult with an attorney if you have been summoned to appear in court!
Illegal eviction attempts are commonly due to lack of knowledge in eviction procedures. To evict a tenant, a landlord must sue in court and win the case. Only the Sheriff's office can carry out a court ordered warrant to evict a tenant. A landlord may not take the law into his/her 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 electricity, water, or heat. If a tenant is evicted, the landlord may not retain the tenant's personal belongings or furniture. A tenant who is put out of his/her apartment in a forcible or unlawful manner is entitled to recover triple damages in a legal action against the wrongdoer. The tenant must prove what monetary losses were suffered.
If you are subject to illegal eviction, call 911 and let them know that you are being illegally evicted. If the police officer is not sure as to what law has been violated, or feels it may be a civil matter, refer them to New York State Real Property Law Section 235.1. ILLEGAL EVICTIONS ARE A CRIMINAL VIOLATION! In Suffolk, you may refer to Police "Department Rules and Procedures, Chapter 9, Section 7, entitled Willful Eviction Violations" and "Department General Order 88-19" which sets forth proper police response in these matters.
If your landlord tells you that he wants you to move, try not to panic. Begin looking for new housing. The most common reason for eviction is non-payment of rent. If you do not pay your rent, your landlord is likely to bring eviction proceedings. To lawfully initiate non-payment evictions, the landlord must first give notice of rent owed/due. Next, you will receive papers (usually by a process server or by certified mail) telling you when to appear in court. You may pay the back rent at this time. If the landlord accepts it, the eviction proceedings should stop. GET A RECEIPT for the money you pay the landlord and SHOW UP IN COURT anyway to make sure the eviction proceedings are stopped. If you haven't paid the rent by the time of the court date, you will have to give the judge a good reason for not having done so. (An example would be showing the judge proof that you asked the landlord to make necessary repairs, along with documentation from officials verifying that there are health and/or building code violations and that you have set aside the money, deposited it with the Clerk of the Court or in a money order from when the rent was due.) This may prevent you from being evicted. If you do not have a good reason for not paying the rent (the court will not accept financial problems as good reason for not paying rent), you can ask the judge for more time to allow you to find a new apartment or house. Even if you are evicted, you will still owe your back rent and the landlord can get a judgement from the court to collect the money. The judgement cannot be applied against a Public Assistance grant.
If you have a lease, the landlord will have to prove that you broke some provision of the lease in order to evict you (non-payment of rent is breaking a provision of the lease). In this case too, the landlord has to give proper notice and bring a summary proceeding in court, you will be served with papers telling you when and where to appear and the landlord has to prove his case. You should bring with you any proof you have to show that you have not violated any parts of the lease. DO NOT IGNORE COURT DATES OR CERTIFIED MAIL. IGNORING THE PROBLEM CAN ONLY MAKE MATTERS WORSE, NOT MAKE THEM GO AWAY!
If you are a month-to-month tenant, the landlord must give you at least thirty-days notice before the next rent is due that he/she wishes you to leave the house or apartment. This notice can be oral or in writing. With proper notice, the landlord can initiate an action to evict even if you are paying your rent and taking good care of the property. The landlord does not need a reason to evict you; however, if you feel you are being evicted based on unlawful discrimination or retaliation, please contact our office for further information. If you are a holdover tenant (this means that your lease has expired and you are still living in the house or apartment), the eviction is the same as for a month-to-month tenant.
When dealing with any of these issues, always get the name of the party you speak with in efforts to correct the problems. Keep a log/diary noting dates, times, names, and issues discussed! Keep copies of all documentation and receipts.