Illegal lockout

Not only is it illegal for a landlord or any of its employees to force a tenant or occupant out of their home without a court order, but it subjects the landlord to hefty fines or triple damages that the tenant sustains as a result of the unlawful eviction. Below are a few ways that some landlords will attempt to unlawfully force tenants out:

  • Changing the locks to the apartment.
  • Using threats of force or physical violence against the tenant or occupant.
  • Cutting off or interrupting important and “essential services” such as heat and hot water.
  • Physically ousting the tenants or occupants and/or removing their furniture and personal belongings from the apartment.
  • Removing the front door to the apartment.

If your landlord attempts any use of force or “self help” to remove you from your apartment without a court order or a marshal's notice, you should do the following:

  • Call the police or go to the nearest precinct to ask for an officer to accompany you back to the apartment. Make sure to insist that the police file a report. Even if the police claim that the lockout is a housing court matter, insist that they file the report so that you have documentation to use later on. Make sure to get the name and badge number of any officer that you deal with. If there is any interaction with the landlord, super or management, record it using your cell phone. It could be very helpful later on.
  • Remember, it is helpful to always have access to a copy of your most recent lease or utility bill to show that you live in the apartment. We recommend that tenants keep electronic copies of their leases in case they ever find themselves in the unfortunately situation of an illegal lockout.
    • If the police refuse to assist you, mention that you understand what they are required to do under the Police Patrol Guide Procedure #117-11 to assist you.
    • If the police still refuse to help you, advise of your intention to file a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board for their failure to follow proper police procedure. You will need the officer's name and badge number to file a report.
    • Go to the housing court in your boro. File an illegal lockout petition with the court to force your landlord to let you back into your home.
    • Hire an attorney to sue your landlord for any damages you sustained or any out of pocket costs you incurred as a result of the illegal lockout.