What to Do When You Get An Eviction Notice

Written by JustFix.nyc
Updated 06/24/2020

Please note that there is currently an eviction moratorium in place in the state of New York until August 6, 2020! This means that you cannot be evicted under any circumstances, and even if you do receive a notice, you do not have to go to housing court. If you want more up-to-date information, please check out this FAQ from our partners at the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition. When the moratorium ends, don’t panic — there are several options for how to proceed.

Step 1: Determine What Type Of Eviction You’re Facing

There are only two types of legal evictions - holdover and nonpayment. Holdover evictions are evictions for any issues other than the nonpayment of rent (such as being too loud, overstaying a lease, etc.). Holdover evictions can also differ based on the type of housing that you live in (NYCHA, rent regulated, etc.). Nonpayment evictions are evictions for not paying rent or owing rent. If you’ve received an eviction notice and you’re not sure how to tell which type of notice it is, you can use JustFix.nyc’s Eviction Free NYC tool to compare your notice to several real life samples.

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Respond to an eviction notice

Check if you have the right to a free attorney and connect with legal service providers and housing organizations closest to you.

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Step 2: Check That The Eviction Is Legitimate

According to the Met Council on Housing, there are two ways to determine if the landlord has a reason to bring a holdover eviction case against you, depending on your housing type. If you live in a market rate apartment and don’t have an up-to-date lease, or, if you’re a subtenant not named on the primary lease, and you and the primary tenant don’t have a lease agreement, then the landlord can evict you without notice. Otherwise, your landlord is required to give you a reason for the eviction in writing, 14 days before an eviction takes place.

According to Legal Services of Western New York, landlords may use illegal tactics to try to force an eviction. These illegal tactics may include: 

  • Locking or removing a tenant’s apartment door

  • Removing a tenant’s belongings from their home 

  • Shutting off a tenant’s utilities 

  • Threatening to forcefully remove a tenant from their home 

Unlawful evictions are now a misdemeanor punishable by civil penalty fines of $1,000-$10,000 per violation. If your landlord does not strictly follow the legal guidelines for eviction, it could be invalidated. And ultimately, only the City Marshal's office or Sherriff has the power to forcibly remove a tenant from their apartment, not your landlord.

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Step 3: Check If You’re Eligible For A Free Attorney

If your landlord is performing any of the illegal actions listed above, it’s time to protect yourself. Due to the successful passage of the Right to Counsel legislation in 2017, you may be eligible for a free lawyer if you received an eviction notice, are living in a zip code where the legislation’s program is active, and your income is at or below 200% of the poverty line. You can use EvictionFreeNYC.org to quickly find out if your address and income qualify you for a free attorney.

Even if you don’t live in a zip code where Right to Counsel is active, the Eviction Free NYC tool will show you a list of free, nearby legal clinics and community organizations that you can call or email. The legislation is being phased in from now through 2022. The city will add zip codes each year based on where high numbers of evictions are, as well as a few other factors. Keep checking Eviction Free NYC for updates on the zip codes.

Given the current context of COVID-19, there are now legal service providers available to give you free advice, even if they can’t represent you. Get in touch with them by calling the City’s Tenant Helpline by dialing 311, or email civiljustice@hra.nyc.gov at any time.

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Step 4: Resolve The Issue If You Can

Do your best to show that you can resolve the issue before they move forward in the legal process. Document the step you take you have in writing or with photos and videos. An eviction on your record can unfortunately make it harder for you to rent an apartment in the future.

If you have a nonpayment eviction and you're unable to pay, check if you’re eligible for a rental assistance program. There are City-based rental assistance programs and State-based rental assistance programs that you can reach out to. There are fewer resources available to directly address holdover cases, since the reasons for holdovers vary. 

Evictions are not your fault. According to City data, from June 14th, 2019 through December 31st, 2019, 8,951 tenants were evicted from their homes. That’s an 18% drop from the same time period last year, but for many New Yorkers, getting evicted remains a terrifying possibility. Landlords know evictions are scary, and are betting on that fear to get you to leave. Need more assurance? Check out this Eviction Guide for tenants, or call the Tenant Rights’ Telephone Hotline, hosted by Met Council on Housing, at 212-979-0611, Monday and Wednesday from 1:30 pm to 8 pm, Tuesday from 5:30 pm to 8 pm, and Friday from 1:30 to 5 pm.

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Step 5: Join the Right to Counsel Movement

The Right to Counsel NYC Coalition is led by tenants, organizers, attorneys, and community advocates who are building campaigns that will create an eviction-free New York City! After building a powerful grassroots campaign, they won the Right to Counsel in 2017. It took three years of organizing to shift power into the hands of tenants, pushing the City and other groups to make attorneys available to tenants facing evictions. However, there is still more work to do, and your story is needed to ensure housing for all in NYC. Want to join this community of others fighting for justice? You can take action now at the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition website.

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