Illegal Evictions and How to Stop Them

 

Sometimes, landlords will try to make a tenant move by doing things that are illegal … for instance:   

1. Throw furniture and belongings in the street   

2. Remove the doors   

3. Padlock the doors   

4. Change the locks   

5. Turn off the heat or electricity   

6. Turn off the water   

7. Keep your belongings   

8. Threaten to use, or actually use, violence.   

This is against the law! Your landlord can’t lock you out. There is only one legal way for a landlord to force a tenant to move – HE MUST FIRST TAKE THE TENANT TO COURT AND, IF HE WINS, HE MUST STILL GET THE SHERIFF TO CARRY OUT THE ACTUAL EVICTION. This section contains copies of the law ( summarized below) and a Suffolk County Police Department Directive that will help a tenant enforce her rights. Tenants should show the laws to the landlord or the police if an illegal eviction is threatened or being carried out.These are summaries. Click on the headings for the full laws and if possible print them out. CALL NASSAU SUFFOLK LAW SERVICES FOR FURTHER ADVICE.
1)REAL PROPERTY AND PROCEEDINGS LAW SECTION 711 This says that as a tenant ( in an apartment, house or roominghouse) you cannot be evicted unless the landlord takes you to court and wins. Even then, it is only the sheriff who actually evicts you…not the landlord or one of the landlord’s friends.  
2)REAL PROPERTY AND PROCEEDINGS LAW SECTION SECTION 235 This says that it is a criminal violation for your landlord to evict you in any way: by changing the locks, shutting off the utilities, throwing out your furniture, etc. He must take you to landlord/tenant courts – and, even then, if you lose only the sheriff actually carries out the eviction.  
3) REAL PROPERTY AND PROCEEDINGS LAW SECTION 853This says that if your landlord does manage to illegally evict you, you can sue him for three times the damages you suffer. BE SURE TO MAKE A POLICE REPORT, TAKE PICTURES OF THE SCENE AND KEEP RECEIPTS FOR THE EXTRA EXPENSES YOU INCUR. (Cost of eating out, transportation, value of items damaged or lost, cost of finding a new place to live, etc.) If no heat, document temperatures for inside and outside and keep records for each day of no heat.  

IF THE LANDLORD TRIES TO ILLEGALLY EVICT YOU

You must immediately call or go to the police. Hopefully, the police with intervene. In Suffolk County, Police Rules and Procedures encourage officers to intervene in most cases of illegal eviction. Nassau County has no similar written procedure but the laws above still apply. Since illegal evictions are criminal violations pursuant to RPL 235.1, a criminal summons can be issued to the landlord by the police.

We urge tenants who suspect that their landlord will act illegally, to keep with them at all times copies of rent receipts and a copy of their lease, or the real estate agent’s agreement, or the landlord’s statement from the welfare department. Unfortunately, though there are still police officers who continue to believe that illegal evictions are “civil matters” and refuse to do anything at the scene. If this is the case you should ask to file a police report, get the name and badge number of the responding officers, and arrange to go as soon as possible to the local police precinct, working up the chain of command. If you live in Suffolk County, show them a copy of the Police Rules and Procedures.

Call DSS immediately to arrange for emergency housing and storage. In Nassau County, the landlord is required to pay for 30 days of storage following a legal eviction but it is doubtful he will pay following an illegal eviction. If a landlord follows through with the  illegal eviction, the tenant can sue for three times the damages she suffers (RPAPL 853, attached above).

Despite the crisis situation she is in, the tenant should be careful to keep proof of her damages – pictures of the destroyed property; receipts for additional expenses incurred; witnesses; police or health department reports, etc. If the damages are less than $5,000.00, the tenant can sue the former landlord in small claims court. If the damages are more than $5,000.00, the tenant will have to get a private attorney to take her case on a contingency fee basis (Nassau or Suffolk Bar Referral Service). This means that the attorney will require no money down but will take one-third of what is won. If you try three different attorneys and they refuse to take your case (keep a list of their names), give Nassau Suffolk Law Services a call.