Sometimes, landlords will try to make a tenant move by doing things that are illegal, for instance:
Throw furniture and belongings in the street
Remove the doors
Padlock the doors
Change the locks
Turn off the heat or electricity
Turn off the water
Keep your belongings
Threaten to use, or actually use violence
There is only one legal way for the landlord to force a tenant to –HE MUST FIRST TAKE THE TENANT TO COURT AND, IF HE WINS, HE MUST STILL GET THE SHERIFF TO CARRY OUR THE ACTUAL EVICTION.
Attached are copies of the laws (summarized below) and a Suffolk County Police Department Directive that will help a tenant enforce his/her rights. Tenants should show the laws to the landlord or the police if an illegal eviction is threatened or being carried out.
1. REAL PROPERTY ACTIONS AND PROCEEDINGS LAW SEC. 711
This says that as a tenant or lawful occupant, (in an apartment, house, or rooming house), 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 LAW SEC. 235
This says that it is a criminal violation for your landlord to evict you in any way: by changing locks, shutting off the utilities, throwing out your furniture, etc. He must take you to landlord/tenant court- and, even then, if you lose only the sheriff actually carries out the eviction.
3. REAL PROPERTY ACTIONS AND PROCEEDINGS LAWS SEC. 853
This 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.
4. REAL PROPERTY ACTIONS AND PROCEEDINGS LAW SEC. 768 (New Section added under the Statewide Housing Security and Tenant Protection Act of 2019)
This section provides that it is unlawful to attempt to evict a legal occupant by using or threatening force to induce that occupant to vacate. Makes the proscribed behavior a class-A misdemeanor and provides for civil penalties of $1,000.00 to $10,000.00 for each violation, in addition to $100.00 a day if the landlord fails to restore you to possession.
WHAT TO DO
If the landlord tries to illegally evict you, you must immediately call or go to the police. Hopefully the police will intervene, as outlined in the “Suffolk County Police Order Number 92-1”. As this order distinguishes between those with “written evidence” of their tenancy and those who do not… 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, 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.
Naturally, the tenant should also call Law Services if they live west of Route 112 (631-232-2400), or east of 112 (631-369-1112) and arrange for emergency housing and storage through the Department of Social Services.
In the case of a utility shut-off by the landlord, the tenant can also call the Suffolk County Department of Health Services (631-852-5900) or their local town building department and ask them to intervene.
If the landlord pulls off an illegal eviction, the tenant can sue for three times the damages he/she suffers (RPAPL 853, attached). Despite the crisis situation he/she is in, the tenant should be careful to keep proof of his/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, the tenant can sue the former landlord in small claims court. If the damages are more than $5,000, the tenant will have to get a private attorney to take his/her case on a contingency-fee basis. This means that the attorney will require no money down, but will take one third of what is won. For assistance with your Small Claims Court matter, you can call NYPIRG (516-222-0086).
Furthermore, under the recently enacted Statewide Housing Security and Tenant Protection Act of 2019, RPAPL Sec. 768 provides that you may be able to seek to have your landlord arrested (class A misdemeanor) and/or sue you landlord for damages ranging from $1,000.00 to $10,000.00 for the illegal eviction, and an additional $100.00 a day for damages until your landlord restores you to the premises.