New York Eviction Law

Posted by Christopher Berkompas in New York

Note: I am not a lawyer, and this is not intended as legal advice.

Under what circumstances may a tenant be evicted?

A landlord must use the court system in order to evict a tenant if the tenant has occupied the leased premises for 30 days or more.  A landlord may initiate eviction proceedings against a tenant if:

  1. The lease has expired
  2. The tenant owes back rent
  3. The tenant has substantially breached the lease agreement.

If the lease operates on a month to month basis, the tenant may also be evicted if the landlord has given him a 30 day notice to do so.

What is the process for evicting a tenant?

The landlord will file complaint papers with the local court, which the tenant will also receive.  The court will set a date for a hearing, which the tenant should attend or the court will likely enter a default judgment in favor of the landlord.  At the hearing, the judge will hear arguments from both the landlord and the tenant, and may make his decision then and there. 

If in favor of the tenant, he will be allowed to remain.

If in favor of the landlord, he will receive a warrant of eviction, which will allow the local sheriff to evict the tenant.  The landlord may not evict the tenant himself, but must wait for the sheriff to do so, which usually will take place within 72 hours.  (30-90 days if the case is for a mobile home)  The tenant may appeal his eviction or ask for extra time from the judge.


How are landlords supposed to deal with tenant belongings left behind?

After a successful eviction, the sheriff or marshal will remove the tenant's belongings and cause them to be stored in a private warehouse, under the control of the landlord.  The tenant may then arrange to transport the property to another location and reclaim it with no further penalty than the storage fees which the landlord may charge him.

Can the landlord shut off utilities or lock a tenant out prior to the completion of the eviction process?

It is illegal for a landlord to attempt to evict a tenant through any other means than through the court, subject to the exception noted above.  This includes shutting off essential utilities, such as water, gas, or heat, as well as locking a tenant out prior to the completion of eviction proceedings.

A tenant who has been unlawfully evicted is entitled to be reinstated in occupancy, and may receive as much as three times the injury he received as a result of the wrongful eviction.

Are landlords required to let tenants know why they are being evicted?

Yes, the reason for the eviction must be stated in the papers the landlord submits to the court and which are served on the tenant.

Is it legal for the landlord to deduct legal fees and court costs from the security deposit?

No.  The landlord may recover for these costs, however, if the court orders it.  The landlord will be responsible for collecting it, but the security deposit should not be used for that purpose.

Can the landlord try to collect unpaid rent for the rest of the time left in the lease?

Yes, but only through the court process.  The landlord is not allowed to pursue the tenant himself for back rent.  If he recovers anything, it will be through the court.


  1. Legal Assistance of Western New York
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