As a landlord, it's almost inevitable that at some point you'll have to deal with evicting a tenant. Common reasons for tenant eviction in New York state include:
- Failing to move when the lease ends. A lease will have a fixed end date. If the tenant doesn’t move, you have a right to evict them from your property.
- Causing excessive property damage. Excessive property damage goes further than normal wear and tear. You'll also need to determine whether the damage is in excess of the security deposit.
- Disturbing the peace of other neighbors. Every tenant has a right to peace and quiet. As such, if a tenant disturbs other neighbors by playing loud music or hosting large, noisy parties, they can be evicted.
- Missing Rent Payments. Failure by the tenant to pay rent is a serious lease violation. If they miss payments, they are violating the terms of the agreement and can be evicted.
It's important to remember that while lease violations can be grounds for eviction, tenants have the right to terminate their leases without penalty in certain circumstances.
Regardless of the violation committed, only a sheriff can evict a tenant from the unit. As a landlord, it’s illegal for you to force tenants out yourself.
For example, you can't remove their posessions from the home, shut of their utilities, or change locks. If you do, a court may find that you have “constructively evicted” the tenant.
Besides delaying the eviction, the tenant could sue you for damages. This is an example of why it's so important to familiarize yourself with all landlord-tenant laws in New York.
It can be tricky to keep track of what the legal rights of both landlords and tenants with regards to eviction, especially during a global pandemic when new regulations seem to arrive every day.
New York State Eviction Process
Step 1: Serving the Notice
The first step in a tenant eviction process begins with the landlord serving a notice. The notice states the violation committed as well as the options available.
For non-payment of rent, you must serve the tenant a 14-Day Notice to Pay. The notice gives the tenant two options: to pay past due rent or to move out.
If the tenant pays within the 14 day window, you must stop the eviction process immediately. But if they don’t, you can continue with the eviction process by filing an unlawful detainer lawsuit in court.
For violation of lease terms, New York requires landlords to serve a 10-Day Notice to Comply. Typical violations that fall under this category include having a pet against the rules, having too many tenants residing in the unit, or damaging the property.
This notice gives the tenant 10 days to remedy the violation or else move out. If they comply, you're all set and the problem has been taken care of. But if they don’t, you must serve them the 30-Day Notice to Quit.
Unlike the former notice, this one doesn’t give the tenant an option to remedy the situation. The only option they have is to leave within the 30 days or else get evicted.
For illegal activities, landlords aren’t obligated to serve any notice. Whether they correct the violation or not, they must leave immediately after being notified.
If they don’t leave on their own, you may seek the court’s help. Examples of illegal activities include prostitution, and illegal trade or manufacturing.
And last but not least, for tenants who refuse to leave after expiry of the lease, you must serve them an eviction notice that’s commensurate with the length of their lease. You’ll need to serve them a:
- 30-days notice for leases running shorter than a year.
- 60-days notice for leases running longer than a year but fewer than 2 years.
- 90-days notice for leases running longer than 2 years.
Step #2: Filing and Serving the Petition
If the tenant stays put and takes neither option offered in the eviction notice, you can move to court and file a petition for their removal. Filing fees are dependent on where the case is filed and the type of eviction.
The notice for the petition must be served to the tenant 10-17 days before the court hearing. A neutral party can serve the petition in any of three ways. The first is by serving it to the tenant in person. The second is by leaving it with someone living or working at the unit. The third is by posting the petition in a conspicuous place.
Step #3: Court Hearing
As already mentioned, the hearing will take place 10-17 days after the petition for eviction is served to the tenant.
During the hearing, both parties will be given enough time to present their case. Be sure to carry as much proof with you as possible, including the lease agreement and the eviction notices.
In some cases, a tenant may decide to fight their eviction. They may cite eviction defenses such as:
- The eviction is discriminatory. The tenant may claim that you are discriminating against them based on a protected characteristic. [Protected characteristics in New York include national origin, gender, religion, race, and more].(https://www1.nyc.gov/content/tenantprotection/pages/tenant-protection-laws).
- The tenant ‘cured’ the violation. For curable violations such as nonpayment of rent, you must stop further eviction proceedings once the tenant pays the due rent. If you continue with the eviction anyway, the tenant may use it as a defense against their removal.
- You failed to maintain the unit. As a New York landlord, you’re required to maintain your rental unit to habitable standards. For example, you're responsible for ensuring that it has adequate water, heat and electricity, and that it is structurally sound.
- You didn’t follow the eviction procedures. When carrying out tenant eviction, it’s important that you carefully follow the eviction procedure as set forth in the statewide law. Otherwise, the eviction may become invalidated.
- You used ‘self-help’ actions. Only a court order from a judge can remove a tenant from a rental unit. Attempting to remove a tenant from the premises using ‘self-help’ methods is illegal. Examples of such actions include changing locks or shutting off the utilities to the rental.
If the hammer falls in your favor, the court will issue a writ of execution.
Step #4: Writ of Restitution
This is the final eviction notice given to a tenant. It gives them an opportunity to remove their belongings prior to being forcibly removed from the unit.
The notice gives the tenant 14 days to leave, uncles a stay order is granted.
Tenant eviction procedures can be a lot to keep track of, particularly if you're a first time landlord. Do you still have questions? If you do, Essential Property Management can help.
We have been managing tenants on behalf of property owners for 25 years now. Our specialty is in managing single-family units, apartments, and commercial properties in areas of Long Island and the 5 boroughs of New York City.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only. Since laws keep on changing regularly, the information herein may not be up-to-date when you read it. If you have any questions regarding this content, get in touch us!