Criminal Unlawful Evictions
The City of New York protects tenants by criminalizing unlawful eviction and punishing landlords who use self-help to clear their apartments. The statutes criminalizing unlawful eviction may be found at New York City Administrative Code 26-521 through 26-529. This law prohibits the actual or attempted eviction of anyone occupying a dwelling for longer than one month, or who has a lease, or who requested a lease by 1) threatening to hurt the person occupying the apartment, 2) impeding the tenant’s comfort, peace, and quiet, 3) or throwing the occupant’s possessions out of the unit, performing a lockout, or changing the locks on the door. The law goes on to require the landlord to restore the occupant to suitable living circumstances if the illegal acts above were done and the occupant or their representative asks to be restored.
If you or someone you love has been accused of unlawfully evicting a tenant and is now facing criminal charges call our experienced, knowledgeable, and aggressive New York unlawful eviction attorneys today for a free consultation.
The maximum penalty for illegal evictions under NY Code 26-251 is 1 year in prison and a fine of $1000.00 or double the gain from the crime, whichever is greater. An additional civil penalty of between $1000.00 and $10,000.00 may be imposed. If a landlord does not take all measures to restore the dispossessed person to their dwelling, should the dispossessed person request restoration, the landlord will be liable by a fine of $100.00 per day for up to six months until the tenant is restored to their dwelling. Each time NY Code 26-251 is violated that violation will be counted as a unique and entirely different offense. This means that repeated lockouts or threats to induce a tenant to leave may in fact incur long jail terms. The civil penalty under NY Code 26-251 is brought as a lien upon the dwelling that the tenant occupied. Despite any fee shifting covenants in any agreement between a landlord and the occupant, the city, its officers, and its workers, cannot be held liable for costs arising from unlawful eviction charges. Money that is recouped through this statute is paid into New York City’s general fund.
The police cannot make an arrest for unlawful eviction without first establishing probable cause, essentially that it is more likely than not that a crime was being committed. Case law establishes that repeated police reports from an occupant combined with personal observations by the police of a landlord trying to stop an occupant from entering their residence trigger probable cause to arrest a landlord.
This powerful statute does not prohibit the landlord from using their common law right to self help to remove licensees and squatters. It must be noted that exercising this right is extremely risky and not recommended, as it may be fraught with legal problems. If at all possible, landlords should still use legal process to remove unlawful non-tenant residents. A licensee is someone who only can enter onto a person’s land based on the owner’s permission or consent. A person’s license may be withdrawn at any time. Licensees and squatters are prohibited from bringing unlawful eviction actions. Tenants must be evicted via lawful procedure. Licensees and squatters need not be removed by procedure, even though Real Property and Proceedings Law 713 sets out a legal remedy for removing non-tenants, non-violent removal of people without a landlord tenant relationship is still permissible.
If you or someone you love has been accused of unlawfully evicting a tenant and is now facing criminal charges, call our experienced, knowledgeable, and aggressive New York unlawful eviction lawyers for a free consultation.