The prototypical eviction involves a landlord and a tenant who has not paid his rent. However, evictions come up in other situations. A landlord might evict a squatter. Or a roommate who is not on the lease may be evicted by his fellow roommates. The legal process used in all these situations are the same: a summary eviction proceeding filed in Civil Court. (A rather important, though rare, exception: if the premises being rented lacks a proper certificate of occupancy from the city, you have to bring an action for ejectment in NY Supreme Court. This is really slow and troublesome.)
You cannot take matters into your own hands by locking the tenant or roommate out. You may not turn off his electricity, water, gas, or heat to badger him into moving out on his own. These self-help remedies are illegal in New York City, where they constitute a Class A misdemeanor under Section 26-521 of the Administrative Code. These remedies also open the door for triple damages for the wrongfully-evicted person. Do not resort to self-help eviction.
If the person is being evicted for not paying his rent, you must serve him with a written demand for monies owed at least three days before initiating eviction proceedings. The written demand must give an exact sum that is due, must disclose that nonpayment may result in eviction, and must be served upon the person by a third party. Anything other than strict adherence to these requirements may result in the court throwing the petition of eviction out, leaving you to start again from square one. Keep in mind, however, that the person being evicted could always choose to pay the deficiency and stay. Furthermore, roommates cannot file such an action against another roommate.
If an eviction is sought for any other reason, it must be brought as a holdover proceeding. If you are evicting someone who never paid you rent, such as a squatter or a licensee, you must serve them with a notice that you intend to evict them at least ten days before you initiate legal proceedings. The wrinkle here is that if you choose to evict someone who is current on their rent on a month-to-month lease, which is the default if you don’t have a lease in place. In this case, you must first terminate the landlord-tenant relationship before petitioning for a summary eviction. Thus, you must serve a thirty day’s notice on the person before the beginning of the next rental term. You cannot collect rent or the court may find that you formed a new landlord-tenant relationship.
After the necessary time period has passed, you may file a proceeding in the proper Civil Court. You must serve a copy of the papers on the person you are trying to evict. You will have a hearing to review your petition for eviction. Bring all your evidence showing that you followed all the steps to the letter, especially the service. You must also bring evidence to back up any claim of nonpayment or breach of the rental conditions if you have any. The court will issue a ruling relatively quickly. If you prevail, the judge will issue an eviction order that a marshal will enforce if the person does not leave on his own accord.
You are, of course, free to contact Jakubowitz & Chuang LLP if you have a landlord-tenant case you need resolved by professionals.