Learn About Illegal Evictions

If you are behind on your rent, your landlord cannot evict you without going to court first.

It is a crime for a landlord to try to force you to leave without going to court. The landlord can ask you to leave, and warn that they will start a court case if you do not, but the landlord cannot do any of the following:

  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 

If the landlord is awarded a warrant of eviction in court, he must still get the sheriff to carry out the actual eviction.

What to do:

If the landlord tries to illegally evict you, you must immediately call or go to the police. Tenants who suspect that their landlord will act illegally should keep with them at all times copies of rent receipts and a copy of their lease, 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 demand 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.

You must show them the new section of law – Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law Sec. 768 (Unlawful Evictions) making an unlawful eviction a potential class-A misdemeanor and the police directive and work up the chain of command there until someone does something.

Further, you should call a local legal services provider and arrange for emergency housing and storage through the Department of Social Services. You can also contact the New York State Attorney General's Office via their website, and file a complaint. You can also call the Attorney General's helpline at (800) 771-7755. You can also call 211.

In the event the landlord changes the locks and the police were not effective in getting you back in, you should go to your local housing court and do an Order to Show Cause in order to be restored back to the property.

In the case of a utility shut-off by the landlord, the tenant can also call their local Department of Health Services or their local town building department and ask them to intervene.

You can also use the Legal Help Directory to find a legal services provider near you.