New York City has some of the strongest tenant protections in the country and has a stringent process of how and when renters can be evicted from their homes. While everyone hopes to never be at risk of eviction or potentially in a combative situation with a landlord, it’s important to know your rights. Here are 4 things every renter should know about evictions and illegal lockouts.
1. Only a City Marshal or Sheriff has the authority to carry out a Warrant of Eviction.
Eviction proceedings take time, and only a court order from a judge can result in an eviction. Landlords cannot force you to leave without an eviction order. Receiving a letter from your landlord is not an eviction either. If you’re uncertain about whether a notice you’ve received is legitimate, call 311 and ask for the Tenant Helpline.
2. An illegal lockout is when a landlord changes the lock on your apartment or removes your things without a legal eviction order.
Lockouts are illegal and considered a misdemeanor in NYC. If you find yourself in this situation, you can call the police and file a report. While the NYPD cannot help you regain access to your unit, they can take your statement and supervise while you get locks changed back. Go to nyc.gov/IllegalLockouts to learn more about what to do if you’ve been locked out of your apartment.
3. Short-term tenants and undocumented renters are also protected from evictions and lockouts.
You may think that because you don’t have a lease or are an undocumented immigrant that these laws don’t apply to you. That is false. Even without a formal lease, once you’ve lived in a space for 30 days you are entitled to the same protections as any other renter.
4. Landlords cannot withhold essential utilities and repairs.
In some cases, tenants may feel pressure to leave their home because the landlord is withholding essential utilities, such as water and electricity, and repairs, like ceiling leaks and holes in the floor. This kind of behavior is considered tenant harassment and is completely illegal. If you find yourself in this situation, report it to the City and keep everything well-documented. You can take your landlord to court for harassment, and if they are found guilty of tenant harassment, they could face penalties, including applying for building permits and other City programs.
If you are unsure about any of the above or what your rights are as a tenant, call 311 and ask for the Tenant Helpline to get free one-on-one support. Tenant Support Specialists can connect you with free legal resources and other guidance. The Mayor’s Public Engagement Unit also has resources with more information on how to protect yourself against evictions and illegal lockouts.
Have you ever had a landlord that didn’t respect NYC eviction and lockout rules? In addition to connecting with City resources, be sure to share an anonymous review on openigloo and help the next renters that may consider that building. During your apartment hunt, you can also check openigloo for the eviction histories of every address in NYC. This City data can help you assess which landlord portfolios are particularly known for their eviction practices.