Roommates + Landlords

What to know if your NYC landlord is trying to evict you

By Austin Havens-Bowen | March 29, 2022 - 12:30PM

Your landlord cannot evict you without going through housing court. 

Austin Havens-Bowen for Brick Underground

Eviction proceedings restarted in New York City with the expiration of the state’s moratorium in January. That means if you are behind on rent, your landlord can start the process to evict you.

It is important to understand that an eviction must follow several steps in order to be considered legal—you must be given a notice and your landlord must make their case in housing court.

If your landlord tries to force you out without going through housing court, it is considered an unlawful eviction, or lockout, according to the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants. Other examples of an illegal eviction: if they change the locks on your apartment, shut off utilities, or remove your belongings to try to make you leave. 

What can you do if you're facing an unlawful eviction? In an emergency situation, such as your landlord is actively trying to lock you out, or you fear for your safety, you should call 911. 

Free legal representation

Many low-income New Yorkers are guaranteed free legal representation in housing court under the city's Right to Counsel law. To get a free lawyer, you can call 311. You will be prompted to leave a voicemail with details of your situation and a representative is supposed to get back to you. 

Having an attorney can greatly reduce chances of eviction—tenants with representation have an 84 percent chance of staying in their apartment, according to the mayor's office. 

But be aware: The city is having trouble meeting the overwhelming demand for free lawyers right now, so many renters are facing their landlords in court on their own, the Daily News reports. 

How does a legal eviction work?

In order for the eviction to be lawful, you must receive a petition first. It can be handed to you directly, left with someone of appropriate age and discretion who lives in the apartment, posted to your door, or mailed, Catherine Grad, a tenant and real estate attorney previously told Brick. (Here’s more on how to respond to the petition depending on what kind of eviction is filed.) 

You can continue living in the apartment while your case is pending (so you don't need to vacate just because you've received a notice). Right now courts are backed up after being closed during the pandemic, which may give you even more time to improve your situation. 

And if the eviction is granted, you should first receive a marshal’s notice that says you have to vacate by a certain date, according to New York City Housing Court. A sheriff or marshal must also be present during your eviction. 


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