What are a tenant’s rights in the case of an illegal eviction?

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What are a tenant’s rights in the case of an illegal eviction?

We weren’t staying in our apartment due to bedbug infestation; the landlord was responsable for taking care of it. We went there a couple nights ago to get some of our belongings and the locks had been changed and all our stuff was gone. The neighbors said he threw everything out on the curb. There was a 3-day demand notice on our door but we never went to court. What evidence should Igather before I take him to court? We have already filed a police report. Should we speak to an attorney specializing in land-tenant matters? In Broome County, NY.

Asked on September 26, 2010 under Real Estate Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Definitely speak with an attorney, preferably one with landlord-tenant experience. If a landlord evicts you improperly, such as by changing the locks himself, not going to court to get a judgment of possession, etc., he's acted illegally and may be liable to you. You potentially could recover the value of lost or damaged goods; the cost of temporary rental or a hotel, as well as moving and storage; even possibly get an order forcing him to let you back into the home.

Furthermore, you can't be evicted, legally or not, simply because you were staying at some other premises; as long as you're paying your rent and honoring other lease terms, it doesn't matter whether you're staying in your apartment full  time or are temporily traveling, visiting, or otherwise staying elsewhere. So unless you breached your lease, your landlord would not even have had grounds to evict in the first  place, as well as the fact that he may have carried it out improperly.

You could also go to court to get an order forcing the landlord to remediate the bed bugs.


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