Landlords Resort to Coercive Tactics to Force “Self-Help” Evictions

Ever since New York Governor Andrew Cuomo instituted a moratorium on evictions back in March 2020, landlords have been frustrated with their inability to remove non-paying tenants from their apartments. While some landlords will wait for the moratorium to expire on August 20, 2020, others have taken more drastic measures to convince tenants to leave on their own. In many cases, these “self-help” evictions are illegal, and a violation of a tenant’s rights.

The rent moratorium was instituted to help people who suffered economically due to the coronavirus outbreak. Many businesses were forced to close and/or layoff employees or businesses had to restrict their operations dramatically during the quarantine, leaving many people without a source of income. While the government asked people to stay at home to protect themselves from infection, many of those people who had to stay home were without an income and a potential eviction or homelessness. The moratorium was instituted to prevent landlords from evicting their tenants for nonpayment until the moratorium ended.

For the most part, landlords understood that these extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures.  Landlords complained that they did not receive financial support to compensate them for their own lost revenue from tenants. After months of being unable to remove non-paying tenants, New York’s courts have started to become swamped with applications from landlords to evict non-paying tenants. This poses a major problem, as many New Yorkers may now face the risk of homelessness and a backlog of eviction applications.

Some unscrupulous landlords did not wait for the eviction moratorium to expire before they started removing non-paying tenants.  These landlords began to use illegal methods, known as a “self-help” eviction.  Despite its pleasant name, a “self-help” eviction is not a good thing. Instead, the term refers to a landlord evicting a tenant without going through the eviction process in court or by harassing a tenant until the tenant leaves. Self-help evictions are illegal, as they circumvent the normal eviction process by coercing a tenant, ostensibly of their own accord, into leaving.  A landlord would not need to go to court to remove a non-paying tenant, if the tenant leaves on their own.

Self-help evictions can take many forms. Sometimes, they involve subtle tactics, such as delaying repairs or refusing to address an infestation of roaches or other vermin. Other times, it can be more overt, including repeated harassing phone calls or emails, shutting off water or electricity, or even threatening a tenant with violence if they refuse to leave. In some circumstances, these incidents have escalated to outright assault.

Whatever tactic a Landlord uses, self-help evictions are a serious violation of the law and a major infringement on a tenant’s rights. By law, a tenant is guaranteed the right to peaceful enjoyment of their rented property while they legally reside there. If you cannot pay rent or otherwise violate your rental agreement, the appropriate step for a landlord to take is to seek your eviction in a court of law. It is not appropriate to harass, threaten, intimidate or assault a tenant simply because they were unable to pay rent.  A Landlord who engages in such practices can be held legally accountable for their actions.

If you have questions regarding your rights as a landlord or tenant, you should seek advice from an attorney experienced in handling landlord/tenant disputes. Contact the skilled landlord-tenant attorneys at Hobson-Williams, P.C.  Contact us online, toll-free (866) 825-1529 or (718) 210-4744 to discuss your rights and the solutions available to you.

Written by Tanya Hobson-Williams

Appointed to the bench by the Board of Trustees in 2008, and elected in 2009, Tanya Hobson-Williams was the first African-American Female Justice in the Incorporated Village of Hempstead. Tanya Hobson–Williams obtained her B.A. in Government and Politics from St. John’s University and her law degree from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

Tanya Hobson-Williams has an active elder law practice assisting senior citizens in obtaining Medicaid for Home Care and Nursing Home Care. She routinely lectures at senior citizen centers, assisted living facilities, law schools and counsels families on a variety of topics of concerns to families caring for the elderly.

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Author: Tanya Hobson-Williams

Appointed to the bench by the Board of Trustees in 2008, and elected in 2009, Tanya Hobson-Williams was the first African-American Female Justice in the Incorporated Village of Hempstead. Tanya Hobson–Williams obtained her B.A. in Government and Politics from St. John's University and her law degree from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Tanya Hobson-Williams has an active elder law practice assisting senior citizens in obtaining Medicaid for Home Care and Nursing Home Care. She routinely lectures at senior citizen centers, assisted living facilities, law schools and counsels families on a variety of topics of concerns to families caring for the elderly.

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