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
Procedure No. 117-11
Date Issued: 2-21-86
Date Effective 2-28-86
Revision Number 86-2
To protect the rights of a person who is being or has been
unlawfully evicted from his dwelling unit.
NYC Administrative Code -- Section 26-521
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
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"
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
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
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
2. Effect An Arrest Where The Violator:
a. Cannot Be Properly Identified, or
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)
b. Refuses To Permit Occupant To Re-Enter Or Who Through
Physical Obstruction Prevents The Occupant From Re-
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.
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
Manhattan Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
Staten Island Thursday
Unlawful Eviction Is A Class A Misdemeanor. However, It Is Not A
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
Personal Service Summons - General Procedures (P.G. 109-2)
Universal Summons - Criminal Court (P.G. 109-8)
Evictions, Repossessions and other Civil Process
Aided Cases - Mentally Ill or Emotionally Disturbed Persons
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
Examples of illegal evictions are:
- Locking the occupant out of the dwelling unit or changing
the locks without giving tenant the keys.
- Using or threatening to use force to remove an occupant
- Denying essential services such as heat, electricity or
water for the purpose of evicting.
- Removing the entrance door.
- Removing the occupant's possessions.
STEPS TO FOLLOW IF YOU HAVE BEEN UNLAWFULLY EVICTED:
If you get back in:
- 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.
- It can be extremely helpful to present the following types
of information to the police when seeking their assistance
in an unlawful eviction:
- A copy of your lease
- Rent receipts
- Utility bills
- Mail addressed to you at the building in question.
- Statements of non-involved parties such as neighbors.
- 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.
- 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 can't get back in:
- You should contact a local housing group immediately.
- If you have a court case pending, go to court to file
- Contact 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:
- Contact a friend or relative to spend the night with.
- Call the Emergency Assistance Unit (EAU) at 1-800-
994-6494 to stay in a temporary emergency shelter, or
- Call Victim Services at (718) 577-7777
- Go to Housing Court to get an Order to Show Cause (OSC) to
- 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 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.