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What constitutes an unlawful eviction in New York?

On Behalf of | Jun 5, 2024 | Landlord/Tenant

As a landlord in New York, you must follow the legal process of evicting a tenant even when you have valid reasons for wanting them out. It could be due to non-payment of rent, lease violations or an expired lease. Either way, you should do everything right to ensure the eviction is legal.

All lawful evictions must go through the court. You must obtain a court order and then involve law enforcement to enforce the eviction. Bypassing this process is against the law, and the eviction could be considered illegal. Some common forms of unlawful eviction include:

  • Physically removing your tenant or their belongings from the premises without a court order
  • Shutting off utilities like electricity, water or heat to force a tenant to leave
  • Changing locks or interfering with the property to cut off the tenant’s access

Such actions could expose you to legal and financial liability if the tenant decides to pursue legal action against you.

The potential consequences of an illegal eviction

Unlawfully evicting a tenant is a violation of their rights, and it can lead to serious consequences. The tenant can sue for damages like emotional distress, lost or damaged property, relocation costs and legal fees. They may be entitled to three times their damages under New York law, which can be a substantial amount.

You could also be heavily fined, not to mention the damage to your reputation. In extreme cases, an illegal eviction may result in criminal charges. A conviction will likely affect various aspects of your life.

As a landlord, seeking legal guidance to understand your rights and obligations when evicting a tenant is crucial to protecting your interests. It can help avoid mistakes during the eviction process that could open you up to costly legal disputes or run-ins with the law.