Est. 2007

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TALK TO AN ATTORNEY BEFORE YOU TRY TO EVICT A NEW YORK TENANT

We exclusively represent landlords, property owners, property managers and property management companies when they need to evict tenants from rental property, whether residential or commercial. Our clients include individual landlords who may own only one or a small number of units as well as major property owners with high numbers of units, and property management companies that serve these large landlords.

New York eviction law is complex

When a landlord client needs to terminate a lease or evict a tenant who may have already violated lease terms such as by failing to pay rent, violating a no-pet provision or remaining on the premises after the lease has expired, the New York state and New York City laws that apply can be extremely complicated.

Understanding and properly complying with these laws can be difficult without legal advice and guidance from an attorney.

New York law in this area is especially intricate because it has evolved within a dense metropolitan area with a high proportion of rental space. Legislators and courts are concerned about fairness to tenants and protection from landlords who could abuse their powers. The result is that even fair, honest, law-abiding landlords must comply with detailed legal requirements when they face the valid need to evict problematic tenants.

New York landlord-tenant law can be confusing because:

  1. Applicable laws and procedures can vary depending on the number of units in a building, the neighborhood or the nature of the property. For example, different laws and procedures likely apply if the unit in question is a Section 8 HPD or NYCHA unit, rent controlled or stabilized, mixed-use, commercial, loft, co-op or condominium.
  2. The actions a landlord may vary depending on the circumstances.
  3. Eviction actions are usually brought in local Housing Courts. Known in most instances as summary proceedings, these lawsuits require careful adherence to procedural requirements; requirements regarding legal document drafting, content, service of process, and court or public agency filing; notice requirements; and careful calculation of time periods and deadlines.
Landlords must avoid action that could be interpreted as forceful or unlawful

Another reason sound legal advice is crucial is that certain actions could open up a landlord to liability for damages and even criminal charges and penalties, especially if residential property is involved. For example, while it may seem logical in response to a tenant not paying rent or trashing the space to lock a tenant out of a unit, turn off utilities or remove a renter's belongings from the premises, these actions could be considered forcible entries, illegal lockouts or constructive evictions.

Instead, if a landlord is successful in a summary proceeding, the court issues a judgment and warrant for eviction. To execute the warrant and evict the tenant, the landlord hires a sheriff or city marshal to do so.

Summary proceedings

An attorney can explain whether a landlord has any lawful and peaceful actions that could be taken, depending on the lease, tenant behavior and other circumstances, but in most instances when eviction is needed, filing a petition for summary proceeding or using another court option is the way to proceed.

At any point in time, even if the court proceeding is already underway, it still may be possible to come to a settlement or stipulation of the matter without going through the trial, especially using the negotiation skills of an experienced lawyer.

Finally, a landlord risks missteps in court without an attorney. For example, a landlord's attorney will know the kind of evidence to gather and submit, the procedures that must be followed and other legal steps that might need to be taken in court to preserve or advance the landlord's legal rights.

This is an introduction to eviction in New York City. We will continue to post news and information of interest to landlords here on our blog.

PROPER VIDEO USE CAN HELP LANDLORDS PROTECT THEIR RIGHTS

In crowded New York City, the right to privacy is something many fight to protect. It can be difficult sometimes, but the guarantee of rights spelled out by the constitution and the protection of rights under the laws help.

In the area of landlord and tenant relations, many might argue that the laws tend to favor the tenant. But building owners, especially small landlords and managers, have just as much right to protection under the law as any other individual.

Disputes over rent-regulated properties can be among the most challenging, requiring the use of some unique strategies. Concealed surveillance cameras might fall into this category. But as a recent case that made headlines shows, if properly and legally deployed, landlords can use such stealth techniques to protect themselves against dishonest tenants.

In the case in question here, the outcome means that an apartment that had been previously controlled to a ceiling rent of $152 a month can now be renovated and sold or rented to someone new for a price that is more in line with what the market calls for.

At the heart of the legal fight was the landlord's claim that the unit wasn't being properly occupied by a member of the family that had resided there for decades. Because of that, he argued that the family had given up its right to the controlled property.

Court evidence included the fact the landlord had installed a concealed camera in an electrical box in a public hallway near the apartment. Images captured by the unit showed that two tenant family members lied in depositions about having visited each other at the unit. They were never in the place at the same time over the course of a full year. They subsequently pleaded guilty to perjury charges.

Many tenant advocates complain that security and hidden cameras are an invasion of renters' privacy rights. What this case shows is that when done within proper guidelines, video can work to protect landlords. The key is knowing and understanding your rights.

TENANTS FROM HELL CAN BE EVICTED WITH PROPER DUE PROCESS

Few would support the claim that the housing laws of New York City favor landlords. Renters have solid protections against unjustifiable rent hikes or eviction efforts. The premise of the law seems to be that landlords are all "bad dudes," as one local real estate mogul might say. However, bad-behavior tenants do exist. They can be dealt with, but the law must be followed.

A situation that recently made the Daily News is what prompts this blog entry. According to story, a man leased a Hell's Kitchen apartment and then sublet it to some "unauthorized guests." They apparently were of particularly unsavory character, causing a great deal of trouble for the landlord and others. Now the tenant is named in a suit seeking to curb any further disturbing behavior by blocking future subletting.

The landlord's suit alleges that the leasing tenant allowed his apartment to be used illegally by others. These other people purportedly broke into another unit and scared a leasing agent. When police responded, the unwanted visitors are said to have retreated to the tenant's unit behind a door secured with a lock for which the landlord didn't receive a key.

The suit claims these individuals also started a hallway fire and shot a film that was "pornographic in nature."

It's important to note that the suit does not seek to evict the tenant - only bar him from subletting to others, including those who might seek to book it through Airbnb. One likely reason is that the tenant wasn't the source of the bad behavior in question.

It can be difficult to launch such a case under New York law. It may take longer than a landlord would like, involving granting probationary time during which a tenant can clean up his or her act. However, if the bad behavior does not stop, eviction might be possible later. Consulting an experienced attorney should be the first step to determine all possible options.

BACK RENT DUE: LEGAL COLLECTION REQUIRES DUE PROCESS

It can be a challenge to put your faith in the legal system, especially where landlord-tenant disputes are concerned. The processes can take a long time. In the meantime, your financial well-being is under threat. In some cases, a landlord may not feel he or she has the luxury of allowing due process to take its course. But to ensure that you protect your rights and investments legally, working within the system is always advised.

That housing in New York City is governed by its own laws and administered through its own court is testament to how the state and its residents view the issue as being key to the survival of the community. In the end, the due process requirements are in place to ensure that all sides of any housing dispute, from eviction to collection of rent, have access to justice.

Indeed, the issue of rent collection can be one of the most challenging aspects of being a landlord. Modern technology in the form of automatic money transfer can make it easier, presuming that technology is used. That isn't always possible, however, or maybe it isn't preferred. For some, the old saying holds, cash is king.

The first line of defense on rent collection for a landlord is a rental agreement that makes clear when and how much rent is due. With a properly written and executed agreement in hand, you have the power of contract law on your side. It makes enforcement easier, but even when a renter fails to pay, the law still requires following certain corrective steps. An attorney can help identify what they are in your specific case.

After doing that, if all else has failed, it will be possible to commence a collection suit in housing court.