General Eviction Information for New York
PLEASE NOTE: As of 6/14/2019, laws regarding housing in New York State experienced several changes. We are currently working to update this article to reflect these changes. Please check back later for the most up to date information.
What is an eviction?
An eviction is a court process a landlord can use to evict a tenant from a rented apartment, house, or mobile home.
An eviction case, which lawyers call a Summary Proceeding, is started when the landlord has someone else serve the tenant with two (2) papers, the "Notice of Petition" (has the time, date, and place of court hearing) and the "Petition" (has the reason the landlord wants to evict the tenant). You must be served with both of these papers at least 5 days before the court date, and the court date can't be later than 12 days after you are served.
Just because a landlord starts an eviction case doesn't mean that the landlord will win. Tenants have certain rights, and there are several defenses to an eviction action.
If you live in a rooming house or have stayed in a hotel room for at least 30 days, the landlord must use the eviction process to make you move.
Can my landlord evict me without going to court?
NO! The landlord must go to court, must win the case, and must get a court order called a "Warrant of Eviction". This is true even if you owe rent or your lease has ended.
It is a criminal violation for a landlord to illegally evict you by:
- Changing the locks,
- Padlocking the doors,
- Taking out your furniture or property,
- Removing the door of the apartment or house,
- Turning off the electricity or water,
- Doing anything else that keeps you out of your house or apartment (Real Property Law Section 235).
If your landlord tries any of these things, call the state, city or village police. Please see the article on Illegal Evictions for more information.
When can I be evicted?
Written Lease: If you have a written lease for a fixed term, you can only be evicted if:
- The lease is up, or
- You owe rent and your landlord made a proper rent demand, or
- You have seriously violated the terms of your lease and a term of your lease causes it to expire as a result of the violation.
Your landlord must prove in court that one of the above is true.
Month-to-Month Tenant: If you don't have a written lease and you pay rent monthly, or your written lease is month-to-month, you can be evicted only if:
- You owe rent, or
- You were given a month’s notice to move out.
Again, the landlord must prove in court that you owe rent and the landlord made a proper demand, or that you got a termination notice and had a full month to move out.
If you live in subsidized housing, also called "HUD housing" or "Section 8 housing", there are special rules for evictions. Read any notices you get carefully. See our flier on these programs and be sure to call a lawyer if you get court papers.
How do I defend myself in an eviction?
Your defenses depend on the reason for the eviction action. The reason for your eviction must be written on the Petition.
"Non-Payment Case": If any of these apply, tell the judge:
- Your landlord did not demand the rent from you, either verbally or in writing.
- You paid the rent. Bring proof (receipt or witness) to court.
- You are holding back the rent because the landlord won't make repairs. (See our flyer "When a Landlord Won't Make Repairs" before withholding rent.) Bring a copy of the housing inspector's report, photos, and any other proof.
- The Department of Social Services is holding back the rent because the landlord won't make repairs. Bring a copy of the notices from your worker.
- You offered the rent, but the landlord refused to take it. Bring the rent money to court. If you offer the full amount of rent owed plus costs, even as late as the day of court, you should not be evicted.
"Holdover Case" (when the landlord says your lease is up or s/he wants you to leave regardless of whether you owe rent): Tell the judge if any of these apply:
- You are a month-to-month tenant, but were never given a month's notice.
- The landlord gave you proper notice, but did it because you complained about poor conditions or called the housing inspectors (see our flyer "Retaliation" for more information). Again, bring a copy of the housing inspector's report to court.
- Your lease has not expired.
There are also very specific rules for how your papers have to be served. Many mistakes landlords make should result in the case being dismissed, according to the law.
Should I go to court?
If you are served with eviction papers, you should probably go to court. Even if you agree with what the landlord says, you can still ask the judge for extra time to move. If you don't go to court, you will probably get a 72-hour Warrant of Eviction. If you own a mobile home in a mobile home park, the Warrant will be 30 days or 90 days. The court may also enter a money judgment against you for unpaid rent and costs. A money judgment is a court paper which says you owe the landlord money. The landlord can use a money judgment to try to collect money from you.
What happens in court?
Be on time, or be early. Your case may be the last one called, or it may be the first one. If you are even a few minutes late, the judge may have already called your case and made a decision. There are rules for how long the judge should wait, but you don't want to have to rely on those rules because you missed your hearing.
When your case is called, answer "Here, Your Honor" loudly and clearly. Go to the front of the courtroom. When the judge asks for your side of the story, briefly tell the judge the facts of your case and any defenses you want to raise. Be polite and calm, call the judge "Your Honor", and don't talk while someone else is talking. This can be hard when you are nervous or angry, but it helps your case. Show the judge any proof you brought to court with you.
The judge may decide the case right then, or may tell you to come back another day for a hearing. If the judge won't even let you talk, or won't let you raise any counterclaims, you can complain to the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct. http://www.scjc.state.ny.us/ You can also call 585-784-4141.
You have the right to raise any counterclaims you have against the landlord in court. For example, if you have proof that there were serious bad conditions in the residence, the court should hear your proof that rent should be reduced. A reduction in rent is called an abatement. Unfortunately, some judges incorrectly think that you can't raise this defense if you owe rent.
If the judge agrees with you, the case will be dismissed. You win, and do not need to move out.
If the judge agrees with the landlord, you will lose, and must move. You may also owe the landlord money. The judge gives the landlord a "Warrant of Eviction", which is the court order that allows you to be put out by the police if you don't move out. The judge decides if the warrant can be issued right away, or if it will be "stayed" for a while.
The Actual Eviction
On or after the day that the Warrant can be issued, you will be given a 72 hour (3 day) notice by a law enforcement officer. This is your warning that you have 72 hours to move. You will have 30 or 90 days if you own a mobile home in a mobile home park.
The officer will come back after the 72 hours are over, not counting Saturdays, Sundays, or holidays. A warrant served on a Friday at noon will usually be executed on Wednesday at noon, for example. Check with the officer who gives you the notice to be sure of when he or she will come back. If you have not moved out, the officer can remove your property and let the landlord change the locks.
The landlord is supposed to store your property somewhere safe. Your property should not just be thrown out, or put on the curb. Also, your landlord cannot refuse to give back your property until you pay rent. If your landlord does any of these things or even threatens to, call a lawyer right away. Although the law is not clear about how long the landlord must store your property, landlords often will try to throw away or sell the property after thirty days. If you have not contacted the landlord to get your property back, you may not be able to successfully sue the landlord for the value of your property.
If your property is put in storage, try to move it to your new home as soon as you can. After thirty days it can be difficult to recover property which has been placed in storage.
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This article provides general information about this subject. Laws affecting this subject may have changed since this article was written. For specific legal advice about a problem you are having, get the advice of a lawyer. Receiving this information does not make you a client of our office.
Last Review Date: January 23, 2019