What to Do If You Get an Eviction Notice in New York
Eviction is one of the most devastating things that can happen to an individual, and the thought of it is absolutely terrifying for many of us.
Being evicted means that you lose your home, face life on the streets, and will struggle to get approvals for a new apartment for years to come.
Scary, isn’t it?
The good news is that New York City landlords can’t legally evict people just because they don’t like them.
Avoiding eviction can be done by anyone, as long as they know what to avoid doing. Without legal standing, an eviction cannot happen.
If you want to keep your apartment under your name, it’s important to know what can lead to forced lease termination.
These things below, for example, are some of the more common reasons landlords were able to evict tenants from buildings in New York City.
What to Do If You Get an Eviction Notice
- Eviction is the process by which tenants get legally ordered or removed from the property where they reside.
- Tenants can be evicted for a variety of reasons which include not paying the rent, having unauthorized housemates or pets, overstaying the lease, damage to the unit, or negative behavior such as violence/aggression, noise, or criminal activity.
- You should receive a court-filed petition requesting your removal prior to any official removal or eviction notice.
- Understanding and responding to the petition can help prevent an actual eviction from happening.
- There are effective ways to defend yourself from wrongful eviction, but you must take action before and in court.
- If you can't afford a lawyer to represent you, you may qualify for free legal representation in accordance with New York City law.
Top Reasons Why People Get Evicted in New York
If you want to keep your apartment under your name, it’s important to know what can lead to a forced lease termination.
These things below, for example, are some of the more common reasons landlords were able to evict tenants from buildings in New York City.
Not Paying Your Rent
Without a doubt, one of the most common reasons for people to get evicted is being unable to pay rent--or refusing to pay it.
New York City is one of the most expensive places in the world to live, and rent is never cheap in the Big Apple.
Even so, you still need to pay your dues.
Landlords look for clients they feel they can trust to pay rent, which is why most landlords have a 40-times-monthly-rent income requirement.
If you cannot afford to pay rent, the best way to avoid eviction is to discuss the situation with your landlord to see what you can do.
Otherwise, you might want to pick up a second job until your finances smooth out.
The inability to pay rent is one of the easiest reasons for an eviction to be successful in court. So, if nothing else, pay your rent!
Having Unauthorized Tenants Living With You or Subletting
Take a close look at your renters’ agreement, and you might notice a small clause about subletters and guests.
This is normal.
Your lease agreement will have stipulations about who can and cannot live in your apartment.
Your landlord may have even read them to you as a standard part of an apartment lease signing.
Depending on what’s written on your apartment agreement, having roommates and long-term guests may be out of the question.
If a landlord finds that you’ve broken the agreement by letting your friends move in, they have a right to ask you to leave.
Keeping a Pet Without Permission
Pet lovers will feel this one pretty badly.
As most apartment hunters know, it’s hard to find a place that is open to all sorts of pets in New York City.
Apartment complexes that are pet-friendly often will have restrictions on pet size, types, and breeds.
They also will charge a pet fee and require an application for pets living in the home.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of renters try to skirt the subject by just sneaking animals into the apartment.
Landlords know this to be the case, which is why most rental agreements have a clause that makes owning unapproved pets grounds for eviction.
This eviction reason is not as common as others on this list, but it’s still one that is worth noting.
In the state of New York, committing illegal acts in your apartment is deemed to be a viable reason to evict you.
What does this mean for a typical renter?
However, if you’re found using illicit substances, dealing drugs, or doing similar acts, a visit from the police can lead to near-immediate eviction or serious penalties.
A call from the police alone can be reason enough for landlords to pursue eviction, or give you a two-strike rule.
This is especially true if the activity in question comes with a conviction or damage to your apartment.
Your Lease Ended (But You Haven't Left)
In the vast majority of cases, landlords who have a renter will be happy to renew a lease once the lease has been finished.
This often comes with a small rent hike, but nothing too out of the ordinary.
That’s just the way life is in New York City.
Once in a while, though, landlords will simply choose not to renew the rent agreement.
This could be due to personal issues, a desire to renovate the building, or due to other reasons that might not be foreseeable.
Whatever the reason may be, if the landlord refuses to renew the agreement, you have to leave the premises.
Even if you were a great tenant, the truth is that having a lease terminated doesn’t give you an option.
If your lease isn’t renewed, you have to leave.
Not leaving means you will get an eviction or a lawsuit on your hands.
Extensive Damage to the Apartment
The vast majority of renters in New York City are conscientious, clean, and careful not to upset their fellow neighbors.
However, once in a while, you’ll hear of a neighbor who just doesn’t fit the bill...and seems totally content with turning a building upside-down through neglect or property damage.
Though NYC is notoriously tough on landlords, the truth is that the city is equally tough on renters who cause property damage through their actions or neglect.
If an apartment inspection uncovers serious damage caused by a renter’s behavior, an eviction becomes a highly likely outcome.
Excessive Noise Complaints or Neighbors Aren't Happy
In a city as wild and crazy as New York, it’s hard to imagine that noise complaints could be an issue.
After all, we’re a city known for loft parties and underground raves.
And yet, noise complaints can be an issue that leads to eviction--even if the police aren’t called.
Each apartment has its own unique set of rules for noise complaints, with some apartments going so far as to have “quiet hours” that need to be abided by.
If you breach these and you get too many nuisance complaints from neighbors, your landlord will get legal grounding for an eviction.
This reason for eviction is rare and often intersects with illegal behavior.
Even without a police record, landlords can have the right to evict renters who have displayed aggressive behavior if they feel the safety of other tenants or landlords is at risk.
What is aggressive behavior?
Verbal Or Written Threats
Threatening harm is not only aggressive behavior but a criminal offense. This alone can be grounds for eviction.
Things, like faking a punch at someone, pushing others, or yelling in another person’s face, are deemed intimidating behavior. In most cases, landlords have the right to call the police and evict you.
Sexually Aggressive Behavior
Tenants who don’t take “no” for an answer can be deemed a danger to other renters. This can lead to eviction in rare cases.
Loud slams and body language meant to intimidate others can be seen as aggressive behavior.
Though aggressive behavior can be the root of an eviction declaration, it’s worth pointing out that aggressive behavior is not an umbrella term used in the eviction process.
This means that the individual acts that lead up to intimidation will be the more likely causes brought up in court.
What is the New York City Eviction Process Like?
Every state has its own laws about eviction, but most of the foundations are the same.
Eviction can only begin if the landlord has a reason deemed to be valid in the court of law.
Once a valid reason has been established, the eviction process can begin.
New York City’s eviction laws are stricter than laws in most other parts of the United States, which is a blessing to renters in most cases.
In order for an eviction to be successful, landlords have to follow the process and get approval by courts.
Before The Landlord Sends You an Eviction Notice
The landlord has to send a notice or petition warning of eviction proceedings.
The notice or petition has to offer guidelines on how to avoid the eviction process from moving forward.
Each type of eviction will have its own timeframes for fixes.
Should the timeframe pass without improvement, eviction proceedings will occur.
In the case of nonpayment of rent, the tenant has to be given 14 days to pay as part of the notice.
If they refuse to pay, the landlord must give an additional three-day notice of proceedings before filing.
In the case of lease violations, tenants are given 10 days to fix the issue.
If the issue is not fixed, they are given 30 days to vacate the apartment before eviction occurs.
What Happens If You Don't Comply With the Landlord's Petition?
If the tenant doesn’t abide by the notice’s stipulations, the landlord will file an eviction with the district or county court.
This makes the move official and means that both the tenant and landlord will be required to go to court.
The court will pick the day and time when the hearing will be scheduled.
What Happens During a Court Hearing For an Eviction?
Both sides will give their own sides to the story, then make a ruling.
The judge will hear both sides and examine the evidence before a decision is made. He can rule in favor of the landlord or the tenant.
How the Ruling Affects the Landlord and the Tenant
If the landlord wins, the tenant can be forcibly ejected from the apartment. Should the tenant win the case, the landlord is legally mandated to let them stay.
What Should You Do If You Receive an Eviction Petition?
Receiving an eviction petition filed by your landlord is a demoralizing experience.
However, ignoring it or pretending it'll go away will result in your removal from the premises.
Learn the Reason(s) You Are Being Served
While seeing the document can make your heart sink, you'll need to read the whole notice to understand why your landlord is taking action to evict you.
The good news is that often, there are solutions to your situation. You don't have to be evicted if you can remedy the causes.
Respond to the Petition Filed Against You
For example, if you have rent in arrears, simply paying what you owe should satisfy the notice.
In any case, you may be able to speak to your landlord and agree to some arrangement to resolve the situation.
It's worth speaking to your landlord about the complaints filed against you.
If you make no response, a judgment will be made against you without a court hearing.
Show Up to the Court Hearing
You need to show up to the scheduled court hearing even if you feel that a complaint has been wrongfully filed against you.
As a matter of fact, it's even more important to make your hearing if you are being wrongfully accused.
This is the moment you can state your case and let a judge decide.
If you have already complied with the petition, then you'll still need to make that known in order to clear your name and clear the motion for your removal from the property.
If you do not make your court hearing, a court will likely rule in favor of your landlord.
What Can Tenants Do to Fight Eviction in New York City?
New York is very reasonable when it comes to giving renters opportunities to fight an eviction.
Even so, fighting eviction is not always a good idea unless you have a very solid case against the landlord.
There are several defenses renters can use if they have reason to believe their eviction is illegal, incorrect, or otherwise discriminatory.
The most common defenses include:
The Landlord is Self-Serving Evictions
Legally speaking, landlords are not allowed to take eviction proceedings into their own hands by doing things like changing the locks or throwing out a tenant’s belongings.
If you have evidence of a “DIY eviction,” chances are you will win the case.
The Landlord Followed Improper Eviction Procedure
Did your landlord magically spring an eviction notice on you without warning?
If so, they didn’t follow the legal protocol and that means the eviction in question is illegal.
You Paid the Rent in Full
If you are being evicted from an apartment due to non-payment, you have a defense if you can prove that you paid the rent in full.
The Landlord is Not Maintaining the Apartment
New York City has strict guidelines when it comes to apartment safety and maintenance mandates.
One of the guidelines gives renters the right to withhold rent if the landlord isn’t maintaining their apartment well.
If you have proof of unsafe living conditions, you might be able to win the case.
You're a Victim of Discrimination
Do you get the feeling that your landlord wanted you to leave your home as a result of discrimination?
If you have reason to believe that you were evicted due to race, sex, creed, gender, or a similarly protected status, you could have an argument against your eviction.
To find out more about how tenants are protected, read How NYC Fair Housing Laws Affect Renters and Buyers.
Should You Hire an Attorney to Fight an Eviction?
Hiring an attorney can be your best bet to winning your case especially if you feel you are being wrongfully targeted by your landlord.
Your landlord will most likely have an attorney with them and that can mean the whole case.
What If You Can't Afford a Lawyer for Your Eviction Case?
At one point, New York's low-income residents could almost be guaranteed eviction because they were not able to afford legal representation even when they were in the right.
In 2017, New York City passed a bill guaranteeing legal representation for any low-income tenant facing eviction.
The tenant must simply make 200 percent of the federal poverty line and less.
What Do You Do If You Receive an Eviction Notice?
Unfortunately, at the point you receive a sheriff's or marshal's notice, there's not a lot you can do.
The notice is the official court-mandated notice for the physical removal of you and all your possessions.
The notice should state the time and day you have until to voluntarily vacate the premises.
It will be served to you by a neutral third-party and not your landlord.
If you do not vacate the premises by stated day and time, the marshal is legally permitted to enter the apartment or house and remove you, your possessions, and any other persons or pets you have on the premises.
You do not have to be present on the property when they remove your possessions.
The marshal can legally remove all your possessions and change the locks without your permission or presence.
Once the marshal has paid a visit to change the locks and/or discard your items, it is illegal for you to re-enter the apartment even to reclaim an item that might have been left inside.
Not only can you be arrested for doing so, but the landlord is also under no legal obligation to return any of your possessions nor make arrangements for you to pick them up.
Can you Stay in the Apartment after the Eviction Notice Deadline?
It is possible that you might be able to stay in your apartment or house if the marshal doesn't show up on the appointed day to remove you and doesn't do so for the next 30 days.
At that point, they actually have to refile for another notice. They aren't allowed to remove you and your things after the notice becomes stale.
However, at the end of the day, you will just have temporarily dodged an inevitable outcome.
Addressing the complaint at the time of the petition is your best bet to completely avoid being kicked out of your place.
Is There Any Alternative to Eviction?
Getting evicted is a terrible thing for both the landlord and the tenant.
It is expensive due to court fees, can damage credit, and can also make it difficult for the renter to find apartments in the future.
For landlords, it’s a costly and time-consuming endeavor that can also be emotionally taxing.
There is an alternative to eviction that can work out well for both parties: mediation.
Many organizations in New York City offer free or low-cost mediation services to individuals facing a potential eviction.
With mediation, a third party helps both parties reach an agreement that cuts costs and hopefully gives renters more time to fix issues.
One of the more popular places to get mediation or low-cost legal aid in the Big Apple is The Legal Society.
If you are currently facing a potential eviction, reaching out to them can be a lifesaver.
Will My Credit Score Be Affected By an Eviction?
The short answer is no.
Evictions are legal actions and as such do not appear on your credit report.
However, if you are ordered by the court to compensate the landlord for damages or lost rent and you do not pay, any collection attempt will appear on your credit history.
Collections can greatly decrease your score.
The good news is that with the newer FICO score models, paid-off collections will be removed from your record and your score restored.
Moreover, if you were evicted for not paying your rent, your landlord can actually report it to the credit bureaus so it actually may appear on your report and lower your score.
Even if the above-scenarios don't apply to you, an eviction will most certainly appear on any tenant screening report.
Not all, but many landlords utilize this service and it's almost certain that they will not take kindly to this information.
So, while your credit may remain stellar, your ability to land another apartment will be greatly tested.
The most important step in trying to avoid getting evicted would be to respond to any petition for eviction sent to you by a court.
Ignoring the problem will not make it go away, and almost ensure that you do get evicted.
Hiring legal representation can also increase your chances of winning your case if you feel that you shouldn't be evicted.
However, your greatest weapon is prevention.
You can prevent it from coming to this by having an open line of communication with your landlord.
If there are issues, you need to be forthcoming so you can both find a solution to avoid having the situation go south and lead to eviction.
And more importantly, even if you are evicted you can have a life after an eviction, find out how by reading How to Find an Apartment in New York with an Eviction on Record.