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How to Evict a Tenant Without a Lease in New York City

Owning a multi-family building comes with many duties, including maintaining units, managing staff, and tracking expenses. But of all the tasks associated with building ownership, eviction has to be the worst! No one likes evicting a tenant, especially when that tenant has a lease. But, as we all know, there are some instances when asking someone to move on is completely necessary:

1. When rent is past due or

2. When a tenant has seriously violated the terms of the lease agreement.

Of course, the first reason is obvious—no pay, no stay. Unsurprisingly, there are many potential ways a tenant can violate a lease agreement: Damage to property, excessive disruptions, and illegal activity are just a few of them. Regardless of the reason, the process for eviction remains the same.

Unfortunately, eviction isn't as simple as changing the locks. A legal eviction, or Summary Proceeding, requires serving the tenant with a Notice of Petition (the time, date, and place of court hearing) and a Petition (the reason for eviction).

Both papers must be served at least 5 days before the predetermined court date, and the court date must take place within 12 days of being served. Although time-consuming, the process is fairly straight forward when you have clear evidence of a violation.

But what if there is no lease? Or if a tenant who has stayed on month-to-month after their previous lease ended? What rights do these tenants have?

Evicting a Tenant Without a Lease In NYC

First, let's discuss why a tenant or landlord wouldn't want a lease in the first place. Interestingly, it's not uncommon for both landlords and tenants to be wary of signing one. The deciding factor comes down to a preference for either freedom (and risk) or stability (and security).

When a tenant agrees to a month-to-month rental, they can walk away from the apartment whenever they want. Transitory arrangements are popular for people who either move frequently or desire "trying out" particular areas in new cities. The benefit to the landlord in this situation is that the process for eviction is usually much simpler. The exceptions are a). Communities with some form of rent regulation, stabilization, or control; and b). Tenants who have stayed on month-to-month after finishing a lease. It's important to note that tenants who did fulfill their lease agreements (and are now month-to-month) are still protected by original lease terms in NYC.

Here's what you need to know for everyone else:

  • You don't have to give a reason if the notice is delivered within 30 days.

  • The tenant must either a). Owe rent or b). Have been given a month's notice to move out.

  • The notice must be provided in writing (i.e. Notice to Quit).

  • You must let the tenant know they can contest eviction in court.

  • You must make three "good faith" efforts to hand-deliver the notice. After three failed attempts, you're permitted to mail the notice or leave a copy at the residence.

Important: The notice must not terminate the tenancy until the last date for which rent has been paid or later. For example, if rent is paid through the end of September, your notice period cannot end before September 28th. The notice must provide the tenant a full 30 days.

When You Need Someone Out ASAP

If you're delivering a 7-day Notice to Quit, you must be able to cite one of the following reasons:

  • Tenant has seriously damaged the apartment and has not repaired the damage.

  • Tenant is a "nuisance" to other tenants (i.e. pick fights, doesn't let them sleep).

  • Tenant has made the apartment unfit to live in.

  • Tenant has changed the locks and refuses to provide a duplicate key.

  • Tenant is at least 7 days behind in rent.

If the reason for eviction is failure to pay rent, the notice should include these two sentences:

If you pay the amount of rent due as of the date of this notice before this notice expires, then this notice, as it applies to rent arrearage, is void.

After this notice expires, if you pay all rental arrears, all rent due as of the date of payment, and any filing fees and service of process fees actually paid by the landlord before the writ of possession issues at the completion of the eviction process, then your tenancy will be reinstated.

If the tenant doesn't pay rent after 7 days, they can still legally stop the eviction by paying a). All rent due and b). Your court costs. That includes the cost of serving the papers and the court's filing fee.

Evicting a tenant is never easy, but it's sometimes necessary. The advice in this article was meant to provide an overview of the eviction process. It is no substitute for professional legal counsel. Check out New York State law (N.Y. Real Prop. Law § 232-b) for the exact rules and procedures for how to prepare and serve termination notices.

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