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What to Do If You Get an Eviction Notice

Issue 260

Steven Wishnia Dec 19, 2020

Read “Hurricane Warning: From New York to California, millions of tenants nationwide face a looming wave of evictions” for information on the current eviction crisis and how tenants organizations are handling it.

If your landlord is trying to evict you, they must first send you a written warning that they intend to take you to court. They then serve you court papers saying they want to evict you.

These notices, usually taped to your door or handed to you personally, are more bark than bite. But you must respond to the court papers on time in order to defend yourself. It’s the first step in a process.

There are two types of evictions: nonpayment and holdover. In a nonpayment case, your landlord must first issue a demand that you pay what they say you owe. If you don’t pay within 14 days, they can then start a court case by serving you with papers. You will have to respond within 10 days. The best way is to call the court at the number listed.

You can avoid eviction by paying rent. Many cases are settled by a “stipulation” in which the landlord and tenant agree to a payment schedule, or by tenants getting a “one-shot deal” from public assistance to cover the back rent.

A holdover case is where your landlord wants you out for other reasons, such as noise complaints. In these cases, you do not need to respond until you get papers alerting you of an actual court date.

You can either represent yourself or get a lawyer. Right now, under special COVID rules, any tenant who has an eviction case on the Housing Court calendar can get representation through the city’s Right to Counsel law. For now, the city is waiving the income and neighborhood requirements. Call 311 if you have been given a court date.

Your landlord does not have the right to force you out, change the locks, or remove your property without a court order. This is a common threat, but it’s illegal.

There are also temporary limits on evictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information, call the Metropolitan Council on Housing’s tenant hotline at (212) 979-0611, or go to Housing Court Answers at housingcourtanswers.org. You can also call Housing Court Answers 212-962-4795.

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