Evicting someone from an apartment in New York is never easy. But if you have a tenant who refuses to pay rent or has otherwise violated the lease terms, it may be unavoidable.
New York has strict tenant protection laws that you must follow to evict someone from your building legally. It’s often a long and complicated process, but you have to abide by the proper terms to avoid a countersuit or other consequences. Here is a look at the NYC eviction process.
Notice for Termination with Cause
For a landlord to evict a tenant before the regular lease term ends, they must have a reasonable cause for doing so. They can’t just decide to sell the building or decide they no longer like the tenant and want them out. They can only terminate the contract early if the tenant violated the terms of the lease first.
The violation could be a refusal to pay rent or the result of breaking the terms in another fashion, such as severely damaging the apartment or committing an action prohibited in the contract. So, depending on the reason, the landlord must first issue the tenant a notice letting them know that they wish to terminate the lease.
Fourteen-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit
If the tenant has stopped paying rent, the landlord should issue a fourteen-day notice to pay rent or quit. This notice gives the tenant 14 days to pay their back rent or vacate the unit. If the tenant refuses to do either, the landlord can begin the official eviction process after the 14 days have passed.
Notice to Cure
A notice to cure should be issued if the tenant violated some other lease term. This notice gives the tenant ten days to respond to whatever issue is causing the violation.
For instance, if the landlord attempts to evict the tenant for bringing a pet into a non-pet building, the tenant has ten days to permanently remove the pet from the apartment. If the issue can be resolved within the 10 days, the tenant has a right to stay in the building.
But, if the tenant cannot fix the problem or refuses, then the landlord can proceed with the next step in the process – notice of termination.
Notice of Termination
The notice of termination gives the tenant 30 days to vacate the property for failure to respond appropriately to the notice to cure. The landlord must provide the tenant a chance to correct their mistake first.
But if they cannot do so, the landlord does have a right to terminate the lease early. If the tenant does not leave the unit within 30 days of receiving the notice of termination, the landlord can then begin the official eviction process.
Notice for Termination Without Cause
A landlord cannot evict a tenant without a cause. The only causes that a court of law will recognize are some breach of the rental contract, such as a failure to pay rent or some other condition outlined in the lease.
Even if the tenant displays behavior that the landlord doesn’t like, it must be prohibited in writing to warrant eviction. For instance, a landlord may request that you not smoke in the apartment.
But it must be written into the lease for the infraction to be considered worthy of eviction. Plus, the tenant will likely have to repeatedly break the rule with several warnings before the court accepts it as a reasonable cause for removal.
Month-to-Month Rental Agreement
If the landlord has a month-to-month lease with the tenant, they can choose not to renew the agreement without a cause. But to do so, they must give the tenant the appropriate amount of notice:
- Tenants who have occupied the unit for less than a year must be given 30 days’ notice to vacate.
- Tenants who have occupied the unit for one to two years must be given 60-days’ notice to vacate.
- Tenants who have occupied the unit for more than two years must be given 90 days’ notice to vacate.
So, as long as the tenant receives proper notice, the landlord may refuse to renew without a particular reason.
Fixed-Term Lease Agreement
A fixed-term lease is any other rental contract that allows the tenant to live in the apartment for a period longer than one month. This is typically one year but could be any period accepted by both parties.
A landlord does not have the right to terminate a fixed-term lease early without reason and must wait until the end of the lease term to terminate the relationship unless the tenant violates the contract. They can choose not to renew the lease at the end of the term, but they must honor the original agreement unless they have grounds for eviction.
Tenant Eviction Defenses
Even if the landlord has a solid case, the tenant has a right to defend themselves in court. If the landlord acted in a predatory manner and is attempting to evict the tenant unfairly, the tenant can make their case in court. Even if not, it will still slow down the eviction process, giving the tenant more time to find somewhere to live.
One way to fight an eviction is to accuse the landlord of committing procedural errors. This means providing evidence that the landlord did not follow the proper procedures when serving the eviction. For instance, if the landlord did not issue a 14-day notice to pay rent or quit before beginning the eviction process or did not wait the appropriate amount of time before proceeding with the case. The tenant will have to thoroughly understand the eviction process themselves or consult an attorney who does. But if you find the landlord did not follow the proper protocol, this could be a reasonable defense.
Defense of Non-Payment
Another common argument is a defense of non-payment. That means providing a valid reason for why you did not pay. For instance, the landlord could have violated the lease terms first by refusing to make certain repairs in the building. Or maybe the landlord attempted to charge you more than what was agreed upon in the lease. You will need to provide proof for this argument to hold up in court. But if you have a valid reason other than financial difficulty, you may have a solid case.
Denial of Violation
If the landlord is falsely accusing you of something you didn’t do, you could attempt to prove it in court. Maybe your landlord is evicting you for smoking, but it was actually a neighbor, and the smell seeped into your apartment. If you can somehow prove that you didn’t commit the violation that led to the eviction, you may be able to win the case.
Landlord Self-Help Removal of the Tenant
A self-help eviction occurs when a landlord attempts to evict a tenant independently without going through the court system. Self-help removal is illegal in New York ( and almost every state) and may constitute harassment if the landlord is too aggressive.
The only way to legally evict a tenant is to follow the proper process and obtain a court order from a judge following a successful eviction lawsuit. If your landlord attempts to evict you without taking the appropriate steps, you can take legal action against them, even if they have a valid reason for evicting you in the first place.