In New York City, landlords can evict tenants for any number of reasons. However, to evict a tenant, the landlord must properly terminate the tenancy by serving the tenant with adequate written notice, according to state and city law. If the tenant does not vacate or surrender the premises on or before the termination date, the landlord can proceed to file a summary proceeding in the county where the property is located.
The reason that the tenant is being evicted determines which type of Termination notice that the landlord has to serve. In other words, the procedures and notices required vary with the type of eviction proceeding commenced. Another thing to remember in NYC is that the rules and regulations applicable to an eviction differ depending on whether the premises is an interim Multiple Dwelling, free-market, rent-stabilized, or rent-controlled unit.
Below, we will discuss a general overview of the rules landlords and tenants must follow when evicting tenants in New York.
Evicting a Tenant Without Cause
Generally, in New York City, a landlord cannot terminate a tenancy early without a valid legal reason. If the landlord does not have a valid reason for an eviction proceeding, then the landlord must wait until the lease ends before asking the tenant to vacate. Additionally, in New York City, landlords are required to give tenants notice that they won’t be renewing their lease agreement after it expires.
The amount of notice required depends on the length that the tenant has occupied the apartment, which is as follows:
- If the tenant has occupied the apartment for less than one year, a 30-day Notice of Nonrenewal is required.
- If the tenant has occupied the apartment for over a year or has a lease agreement for at least one year, a 60-day Notice of Nonrenewal required,
- If the tenant has occupied the apartment for over two years or has a lease agreement for at least two years, a 90-Notice of Nonrenewal is needed.
Important Note: The landlord does not have to wait until the lease expires to serve this notice. Instead, the landlord may serve the tenants with the Notice of Nonrenewal, for example, 60-days before the lease expires.
Evicting a Tenant For Cause
A landlord may evict a tenant before their lease ends if they have a valid legal reason to do so; this is considered an eviction “for cause.” Some of the valid reasons a landlord may need to evict a tenant include but are not limited to not paying rent, violating the terms of the lease agreement, or causing or permitting a nuisance in the apartment. To evict a tenant for cause, the landlord must serve the tenant with written notice of termination or termination notice. The type of termination notice needed will be determined by the reason for the eviction and the applicable laws.
Fourteen-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit: when tenants fall behind on their rent, the landlord can serve them with a fourteen-day notice to pay rent or quit. This notice gives the tenant fourteen days to either pay rent in full or vacate the premises. If the tenant does not pay the rent or vacate and surrender the premises, the landlord can then file a summary nonpayment proceeding with the court at the end of the fourteen days pursuant to N.Y. Real Prop. Acts § 711(2).
Notice to Cure and Notice of Termination: If the landlord is evicting the tenant because the tenant has violated the lease agreement’s specific provisions, the landlord must serve the tenant with the following notices.
- Notice to Cure: A Notice to Cure is required when a tenant has violated a specific lease provision. This notice gives the tenant ten days to correct the lease violation. However, keep in mind that if the lease agreement requires more than a ten-day cure period, the landlord should adjust the cure period accordingly. In any event, the cure period cannot be less than ten days, according to New York City housing law. If the tenant corrects the issue or “cures” within the cure period, the landlord should not take any further action to evict the tenant. However, if the tenant does not cure the violation, the landlord can serve the tenant with a Notice of Termination.
Important Note: How the tenant is served will affect when the cure period actually begins. Typically, if the notice is mailed, at least five days is added to ensure the tenant receives the entire ten days to cure the violation. If the tenant believes that they did not receive the correct cure period, this may be a defense to the eviction proceeding.
What if the tenant’s conduct is incurable? If the tenant’s conduct is considered incurable, the landlord may skip the notice to cure and proceed straight to serving the tenant with a termination notice. For example, profiteering and renting a “Class A” apartment on Airbnb and similar websites are considered an incurable lease violation in NYC. Other examples include illegal activity, gang activity, drug activity, etc.
- Notice of Termination: After a landlord serves a Notice to Cure and the tenant has not corrected the lease violation (or if the behavior is incurable), the landlord can serve the tenant with written notice of termination. The notice of termination will inform the tenant that their lease agreement has been terminated, effective on a certain date because the tenant failed to correct the lease violation alleged in the cure notice. NYC laws typically require that the tenant be given at least 7 days’ notice of termination to vacate and surrender the premises. However, this time can vary and go all the way up to 30 days, depending on the type of apartment that is being recovered and the lease agreement (if any). In any event, after proper notice is given to the tenant, if they do not move out, on or before the termination date, the landlord can begin summary holdover eviction proceedings against the tenant by filing a notice of petition and petition in the court where the property is located.
Month-to-Month Rental Agreement
According to N.Y. Real Prop. §226-c, if a tenant has a month-to-month lease or rental agreement and the landlord wants the tenant to move but does not have a valid legal reason, then the landlord must give the tenant the following notice.
- 30 days’ notice: if the tenant has been occupying for a year or at one point had a lease of at least one year
- 60 days’ notice Tenants occupying from one to two years and leaseholders of one to two-year leases:
- 90 days’ notice Tenants occupying more than two years or having leases of two years or more: 90 days’ notice.
Tenant Eviction Defenses
Here are some of the common eviction defenses New York City tenants can use to fight an eviction.
Nonpayment Proceedings Eviction Defenses
- Procedural defenses. In a nonpayment proceeding, tenants may raise serval defenses. The tenant may argue that the landlord made some procedural mistakes when commencing the summary nonpayment proceeding (e.g., the landlord only gave the tenant a 3-day rent demand instead of a 14-day rent demand to pay the rent). If the court agrees, the proceeding will be dismissed, and the landlord would have to start the case over, from the beginning, by serving a new 14-day rent demand.
- Rent Overcharge: If the tenant is rent-regulated, they could allege that they have been overcharged. In other words, the tenant could allege that the legal, regulated rent for their apartment is lower than what the landlord has been charging them. These types of cases are complicated and usually require the help of a very experienced NYC housing court attorney.
- Warranty of Habitability. The tenant could allege that the landlord has failed to maintain the rental unit following the applicable laws. For example, the landlord has been allowing a rodent infestation in the building, or the building has no heat or hot water for long periods. Practically, this typically doesn’t absolve the tenant from paying all the rent. Instead, the court will typically order a rent abatement for a certain percentage. A judge may order a 30% rent abatement. Therefore, this requires that the tenant pay 70% of the rent. If the rent is $1,000 per month, the tenant must pay $700 for each month that the judge orders a rent abatement.
Additionally, the court would require the landlord to correct the issues before any rent payments can be given to the landlord. However, the tenant would be required to deposit the rent with the court. In this scenario, if the tenant still can’t pay the rent (minus any abatement), the court may proceed with the eviction. Lastly, in New York, tenants can pay their arrears at any point before they are physically evicted. This includes whether or not a warrant or judgment has been issued against the tenant.
Holdover Proceeding Eviction Defenses
- Procedural defenses. In holdover proceeding, tenants may raise serval defenses. A tenant may argue that the landlord made some procedural mistakes when commencing the summary holdover proceeding. If the court agrees, the proceeding will be dismissed, and the landlord would have to start the case over. Procedural defenses include not serving the tenant correctly, not serving the tenant with the proper notice, not naming or serving the right parties in the proceeding, or improper notice was given.
- Additional Defenses. The tenant may also defend against a holdover proceeding by simply denying the allegations in the termination notice. In this event, the tenant could take the matter to trial. Practically, it may not be worth going to trial unless a landlord is adamant about evicting a particular tenant. Trials in NYC housing court take forever and usually span over several weeks, not to mention the legal fees and cost.
Important Note: Typically, in a lease expiration summary holdover proceeding, the only defense that a tenant would have is that they didn’t receive proper notice or that the tenant is entitled to a renewal lease because the unit is actually rent-regulated.
- Warranty of Habitability. In the majority of summary holdover proceeding, a warranty of habitability is not a valid defense. This is because a holdover proceeding is not about money, but instead, it is about the landlord wanting possession of the apartment.
Landlord Self-Help Removal of the Tenant
In NYC, a landlord may not evict a tenant on its own. It is illegal for a landlord to conduct a self-help eviction. There are severe fines for a landlord who use self-help measures to evict tenants. A tenant in NYC can only be removed after the landlord has successfully prevailed in a summary eviction proceeding. Subsequently, the sheriff may legally remove the tenants from the premises.
Personal Property Left in the Unit
Sometimes when a tenant moves out of the apartment, they leave behind some of their personal property. New York does not have laws that dictate how landlords should deal with a tenant’s abandoned property. However, the landlord should not just throw out the tenant’s property the next day. The landlord should give the tenant reasonable notice that they have leftover personal property on the premises. If the tenant hasn’t claimed the property in a reasonable amount of time, then the landlord is generally free to sell or discard the property.
Important note: NYC Landlords should consider updating their standard lease agreements to include a provision for property abandoned after a tenant moves out. This will ensure that there is no confusion as to what happens to the property left or abandoned by the tenant after they vacate the apartment.
Landlords must ensure that they follow all the rules and procedures required by New York law when commencing a summary eviction proceeding. Or they risk having their eviction proceeding dismissed and paying additional legal fees. While it is true that New York City is very tenant-friendly, the eviction rules and procedures are there for a reason. The rules help ensure the eviction is legal and that the tenant has enough time to find a new place to live, and so that the elderly and poor are not displaced, if possible.