What is the Penalty for Illegal Eviction in NYC?
If you are charged with the crime of unlawful eviction, the consequences can be very serious. You may face up to a year in jail and can face civil and criminal penalties of up to $10,000 for each separate violation.
If you have been charged for unlawfully evicting a tenant, you may face liability in both criminal and civil court. An NYC unlawful eviction lawyer can assess the specific circumstances of your case to determine your best path forward.
Although the crime of unlawful eviction was previously an offense only inside of New York City, in 2019, the state legislature revised tenant laws to also make it a crime to unlawfully evict a person anywhere in New York State.
Although you could face either the New York City charge (A.C. § 26-521) or the state charge (R.P.A. § 768) depending on where you are and which entity brings the charges against you, the prohibited conduct is the same with both offenses. The following are things that, if done, could result in criminal charges, jail time, and very steep financial penalties.
Using or Threatening Force
If you use or threaten force to induce the occupant to vacate the dwelling unit, then you have committed the crime of unlawful eviction.
For instance, if a landlord (or someone who works for the landlord) were to see the tenant in the hallway, get into an argument about the tenant’s right to be in the dwelling, and then start attacking the tenant, then the landlord would be guilty of unlawful eviction due to using force against the tenant. In this scenario, the one instance of using force could result in jail time and a fine of up to $10,000.
Even if the landlord did not use force but instead made a threat, like “if you don’t move out by tomorrow you are going to get hurt,” the landlord would be guilty of unlawful eviction.
Terminating Essential Services
If you engage in a course of conduct to interfere with the comfort of the occupant, such as terminating essential services, then you are guilty of unlawful eviction and can face jail time and a fine of up to $10,000.
For example, if you cut off the power to a tenant, then you have terminated an essential service, and you can face a penalty of jail time and a fine of up to $10,000. Importantly, you can face a criminal offense and separate penalty for each essential service that you terminate. So, if you were to also terminate the water service to the tenant’s dwelling, that would be a separate offense punishable by an additional $10,000 fine.
Attempting to Terminate Access to the Dwelling
If you engage or threaten to engage in a course of conduct to prevent the occupant from occupying the dwelling, then you have committed an unlawful eviction and can face jail time and fines.
For instance, if you were to change the locks on an apartment and not give the occupant the key, then you would be guilty of unlawful eviction. Also, you can be guilty if you interfere with the locks, even if you don’t physically change the locks. For example, if you were to try to plug in the lock with a filler so that a key no longer works in the lock, then you would be guilty. Also, if the lock is an electric lock in a hotel, for instance, you would be guilty if you changed the keycode such that the occupant could no longer use the keycard.
Failing to Restore Access
If a tenant is denied access to his dwelling through the acts or omissions of his landlord and puts his landlord on notice that he no longer has access to his dwelling, then the landlord can face criminal charges, jail time, and financial penalties if the landlord does not take reasonable and necessary steps to restore access for the tenant.
For example, if a tenant is denied access to his dwelling through an act or omission of his landlord and then writes a demand to his landlord to restore the tenant’s access, the landlord would be guilty of unlawful eviction if he didn’t take reasonable and necessary steps to restore access to the tenant.
If convicted, you may face up to a year in jail, get a criminal record, and face significant financial penalties.
A landlord faces a separate fine of up to $10,000 for each violation. In these cases, the total fines can quickly add up.
For instance, let’s say a landlord calls the police on a lawful tenant on three occasions in an effort to get the tenant out of the apartment. Each one of those calls is punishable by up to $10,000, so the total for the calls could be $30,000. If that landlord also terminates water, electricity, and keycard access, that could be another $30,000. If the occupant demands that the landlord restore access but the landlord does not oblige, that is a separate penalty of up to $10,000. So, in this somewhat routine example, the landlord could face $70,000 in penalties.
Courts are very willing to bring steep penalties against landlords that it believes have acted improperly by unlawfully denying people access to their dwelling since dwellings are so important. Since the penalties can very quickly add up, it is critical to have an NYC unlawful eviction lawyer who understands all the factors in unlawful eviction cases and can advise you about the best way to handle the issue. Sometimes you may have strong arguments about why you are innocent and did nothing wrong, yet other times you may need to quickly resolve the matter to reduce damages and liability. An experienced unlawful eviction lawyer can determine the right strategy for you.
Need Help? Speak to a Skilled NYC Unlawful Eviction Lawyer Today
If you’ve been charged with a crime, contact NYC unlawful eviction lawyer Cody Warner for a free consultation. Cody can analyze your case to determine its strengths and weaknesses, and he can develop a tailored plan for you.