In most situations, a landlord may not attempt to evict a tenant without first bringing the tenant to court and obtaining a judgment of possession and a warrant of eviction. If your landlord has changed your locks or turned off heat and/or electricity in an attempt to evict you, you may bring an Illegal Lockout Proceeding against your landlord in Housing Court.
Under New York State law, a tenant who has been put out or kept out of his or her apartment in an unlawful manner may be entitled to recover triple damages.
If your landlord locks you out, threatens to do so, or takes any action to put you out of your apartment, including turning off the water, electricity, or heat, you should also contact the local police as they may be able to assist you. In some instances the police may order the landlord to restore you to the apartment and/or let the landlord know that a proceeding in Housing Court must be started.
To start an illegal lockout proceeding come to the Landlord-Tenant Clerk’s office and fill out a petition in support of an Order to Show Cause. (See p. 16, Section 5B, “Order to Show Cause “) You will fill out an “affidavit” which states that you have been wrongfully put out of your apartment. It is helpful to bring documentation, such as, a lease, rent receipts, utility bills and mail addressed to you at the apartment. The clerk will witness your completed petition, assign a hearing date and submit the papers to a judge.
If the judge signs your Order to Show Cause, you must pay a court fee to the cashier to obtain an index number. The fee must be paid by cash, certified check, money order or bank check. Personal checks will not be accepted. If you cannot afford to pay the fee you may apply to proceed as a poor person. You must serve your petition in the manner directed in the Order to Show Cause. You must return to court on the hearing date, which will generally be within one or two days, at the room and time indicated. Bring your copy of the papers, proof of service, and any other proof with you on the hearing date.