Illegal Evictions; Police Policy 117-11

Note: what follows is NYPD Patrol Guide Procedure No. 117-11 setting forth the law and official Police policy regarding the New York City Illegal Eviction Law. We've discovered many officers have never even heard of this law and procedure and worse, once they are made aware, we've heard that some wilfully violate it. This appears to be a city-wide problem, but it has been seen several times in the last year when the Police deal with poorer tenants in the city's Single Room Occupancy (SRO) Hotels. Some officers will just assume that because a landlord claims the tenant has been evicted, therefore it must be true.

NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT
PATROL GUIDE
Procedure No. 117-11

UNLAWFUL EVICTIONS

Date Issued: 2-21-86
Date Effective 2-28-86
Revision Number 86-2

PURPOSE: To protect the rights of a person who is being or has been unlawfully evicted from his dwelling unit.

LEGAL REFERENCE: NYC Administrative Code -- Section 26-521

DEFINITIONS

UNLAWFUL EVICTIONS -- Purpose of the new law is to discourage, through the imposition of substantial criminal and civil penalties, UNLAWFUL EVICTIONS to occupants of dwelling units, by methods which often involve:

a. force and violence, OR
b. the denial of essential services, OR
c. other serious Building Code and Health Code violations.

This new law makes it unlawful for any person to evict or attempt to evict an occupant by:

a. using or threatening to use force, OR
b. interruption or discontinuance of essential services (heat, electricity, water), OR
c. removing the occupants possessions from the dwelling, OR
d. removing the entrance door, OR
e. removing, plugging or rendering inoperable the entrance door lock, OR
f. changing the lock on such entrance door without supplying the occupant with a key.

Unless a Warrant of Eviction or Government Order to Vacate has been executed, the protective provisions of this law apply in the following circumstances:

a. When an individual occupies a dwelling unit pursuant to a lease; OR
b. When an individual has lawfully occupied a dwelling unit for thirty (30) or more consecutive days; OR
c. When an individual occupies a dwelling unit in a hotel which is subject to registration under the rent stabilization law (generally single-room occupancies [S.R.O.'s]) and has requested a lease pursuant to provisions of the rent stabilization law.

DWELLING -- Any building or structure or portion thereof which is occupied in whole or in part as the home, residence or sleeping place of one or more human beings. Qualifying "dwellings" include:

a. one (1) or two (2) family homes
b. multiple dwellings

DWELLING UNIT -- Any residential accommodation within a dwelling.

MULTIPLE DWELLING -- A dwelling which is either rented, leased, let or hired out, to be occupied, or is occupied, or is intended, arranged or designed to be used or occupied, as the residence or home of three (3) or more families living independently of each other. A multiple dwelling includes apartment buildings and hotels. A MULTIPLE DWELLING does not include:

a. a hospital, convent, monastery, asylum or public institution, OR

b. a fireproof building used wholly for commercial purposes, except it may contain one (1) janitor's apartment, and one (1) penthouse occupied by not more than two (2) families.

OWNER -- Any person, firm or corporation directly or indirectly in control of a dwelling.

NOTE - A tenant who sub-leases his dwelling unit is in the position of an "owner" with respect to his sub-tenant.

PROCEDURE -- When a uniformed member of the service has probable cause to believe that a person has been unlawfully evicted from his dwelling unit:

UNIFORMED MEMBER OF THE SERVICE

1. Prepare Universal Summons in cases where the violator is properly identified and occupant is permitted to re-enter the dwelling.

a. Follow Patrol Guide procedure 109-2 (General Procedure - Personal Service Summons)

b. Prepare a separate summons for each offense

c. Make summons returnable to the decentralized Criminal Court located in the borough of issuance:

1) Consult ACTIVITY LOG insert COMMON SUMMONSABLE OFFENSES (PD160-102) for borough court locations.

2) Enter return dates for each borough as indicated in ADDITIONAL DATA statement below.

d. Complete Information Sections on rear of summons. Specific details of the violation must be provided.

NOTE - If offense was committed in the presence of officer, the officer will sign the information. When not committed in officer's presence, the officer must ascertain that a crime was committed and request complainant to sign the information. If complainant refuses, officer may sign "based on information and belief," provided all details as related to the officer by the complainant are included in the information.

If a civilian is the complainant, delete the word "Complainant" and substitute the word "Officer" on the bottom two (2) lines of front of summons. In addition, draw line through the words "I personally observed the commission of the offense charged above" immediately above the "Rank/Signature of Complainant" caption. In addition, in every case in which a civilian complainant is involved, the name, address and telephone number of the complainant will be entered along the left margin on the reverse side of the summons.

a. Personally serve violator with Criminal Court (pink) copy of summons.

b. Process remaining copies according to normal procedures.

2. Effect An Arrest Where The Violator:

a. Cannot Be Properly Identified, or

b. Refuses To Permit Occupant To Re-Enter Or Who Through Physical Obstruction Prevents The Occupant From Re- Entering.

Note - When An Arrest Is Necessary, The Violator Shall Be Brought To Criminal Court For Prompt Arraignment. A Desk Appearance Ticket Shall Not Be Issued.

3. Refer evicted persons who are unable to secure temporary housing to Department of Social Services, Emergency Assistance Unit, 241 Church Street, telephone number (212) 344-5241.

Additional Data

Return dates are to be scheduled at least twenty one (21) days from the date summons was issued, on the day of the week indicated, according to borough where summons was issued:

     Manhattan           Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
     Brooklyn            Monday
     Queens              Tuesday
     Bronx               Wednesday
     Staten Island       Thursday

Unlawful Eviction Is A Class A Misdemeanor. However, It Is Not A Fingerprintable Offense.

Substantial civil penalties may also be sought through Corporation Counsel in appropriate cases.

When it has been determined that a continuous pattern of unlawful eviction activity exists at a particular location, the precinct commander will confer with Legal Bureau personnel regarding initiation of civil action through the Corporation Counsel.

Related Procedures

Personal Service Summons - General Procedures (P.G. 109-2)

Universal Summons - Criminal Court (P.G. 109-8)

Evictions, Repossessions and other Civil Process (P.G. 116-17)

Aided Cases - Mentally Ill or Emotionally Disturbed Persons (P.G. 106-11)

THE FOLLOWING IS NOT PART OF POLICE PROCEDURE 117-11, BUT IS AN EXPLANATION WRITTEN BY A THIRD PARTY.

The Rights of Tenants who have been unlawfully evicted
Administrative Code Section 26-521
Police Patrol Guide 117-11

In 1982, the City Council of New York passed the Unlawful Eviction Law, a local ordinance making it illegal for any person, without a court order, to evict or attempt to evict an occupant who either has a lease or has lawfully occupied the unit for thirty or more consecutive days.

OWING RENT IS NOT A REASON TO BE UNLAWFULLY EVICTED. A LANDLORD CANNOT ACT AS A JUDGE, JURY OR MARSHALL. ONLY A JUDGE CAN ORDER AN EVICTION.

Examples of illegal evictions are:

  1. Locking the occupant out of the dwelling unit or changing the locks without giving tenant the keys.

  2. Using or threatening to use force to remove an occupant

  3. Denying essential services such as heat, electricity or water for the purpose of evicting.

  4. Removing the entrance door.

  5. Removing the occupant's possessions.

STEPS TO FOLLOW IF YOU HAVE BEEN UNLAWFULLY EVICTED:

  1. Call the police. You may be directed to go to the precinct. If so, an officer will accompany you back to your apartment. (if the owner has removed the locks or door, explain to the police that you cannot leave your apartment unprotected and demand an officer come to the location.) Whether over the phone or in person get the name or badge number of any police personnel you speak with. In many cases the police will see this as a civil case and not within their jurisdiction. Mention the Police Patrol Guide procedure #117- 11 and if they still refuse to assist, demand to speak with a sergeant or whoever is in charge. In some cases you will end up having to make a complaint about the officer(s) with the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

  2. It can be extremely helpful to present the following types of information to the police when seeking their assistance in an unlawful eviction:
    1. A copy of your lease

    2. Rent receipts

    3. Utility bills

    4. Mail addressed to you at the building in question.

    5. Statements of non-involved parties such as neighbors.

    6. Any written documentation of violations or harassment between you and the owner/landlord. This is not a legal requirement, but it does add credibility to your claim.

    7. The address and phone number of the landlord, the super and/or managing agent

    (it may make sense if you suspect the landlord may attempt an illegal eviction to keep copies of any of the above at another location so you can prove your claim. In many cases the proof the tenant needs is locked in the apartment where they cannot get access.)

If you get back in:

  1. You should contact a local housing group immediately.

  2. If you have a court case pending, go to court to file contempt.

  3. Contact the City-Wide Task Force on Housing Court Coordinator (usually located in the lobby of your borough housing court).

If you can't get back in:

  1. Contact a friend or relative to spend the night with.

  2. Call the Emergency Assistance Unit (EAU) at 1-800- 994-6494 to stay in a temporary emergency shelter, or

  3. Call Victim Services at (718) 577-7777

  4. Go to Housing Court to get an Order to Show Cause (OSC) to restore possession.

  5. Contact your local housing group or the City-Wide Task Force on Housing Court Coordinator (usually located in the lobby of your borough housing court).

If your utilities are cut off:

  1. If your gas and/or electric service has been discontinued, check with Con Ed/Brooklyn Union Gas/Long Island Lighting Company to find out the reason for the discontinuation. Two possible reasons may be nonpayment of bills by the landlord or a request by the landlord/agent that service be turned off. If the landlord has requested a turn-off on your account (which you pay for and is not included in the rent) then ask/demand to speak with the utility company branch manager. Inform him/her that you did not authorize any turn off (assuming you are paid up), that the landlord did this without authorization and that you want service restored immediately. Inform then that you have an ongoing dispute with your landlord and that the utility company cannot get involved one way or another. Let them know you will go to the Public Service Commission if they don't immediately restore service and that their action (or failure to restore service) may possibly have legal repercussions for the utility company. Also call the Public Service Commission at 1-800-342-3377.

  2. Check and see if the service is being cut off from inside the premises for the purpose of an unlawful eviction. If this is the case, call the Police. Call the Department of Housing Preservation and Development at 212-824-4328 and register a complaint.

  3. In some cases the landlord may try to transfer your utility account (in your name) to his name in anticipation of cutting off service. If this is the case (even if the gas or electricity has not yet been turned off), see #1 above and call the utility Company and demand they restore the account to your name.

  4. If the owner has turned off service to public area electricity (such as hallway lighting), call the police, fire department or your utility emergency number (or all three). Such a situation is very dangerous in that tenants may fall down open stairwells. If the public lighting has been turned off (and you did not get a letter from the utility warning you of this), call the utility to get service restored. In some cases tenants may transfer a public area electrical account to their name (or the tenants association name) and pay it off deducting the cost from their rent. In such cases, tenants are advised to seek legal advice as they may then be responsible for the bill.

IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO KEEP A LIST OF THE NAMES AND TELEPHONE NUMBERS OF ALL PEOPLE YOU HAVE SPOKEN TO.

Keep detailed logs of what happens, who you speak to, where you go. If you incur any expenses (hotel bills, restaurant, clothing, medicine, etc.), then keep all receipts.

Since an unlawful eviction is a Class A Misdemeanor, subject to criminal and civil penalties, the landlord or his representative (managing agent or super) can be subject to the following penalties: a universal summons, arrest, fines (treble damages) or an action in civil and/or criminal court.

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