I have lived in my apartment and was the sole person on the lease for two years. Six months ago, my roommate was added to the lease. I went away traveling for the last five months and sublet out my room. While I was away, my roommate threw away all of my personal belongings and refuses to let me back into the apartment. I have tried to contact her with no response. What are my rights? Thank you!
Landlord / Tenant Lawyer
Dear My roommate threw away my stuff and won't let me into the apt, but we're both on the lease. Help??
Perhaps I may help. Your version of the facts describes an illegal or an unlawful eviction.
In New York, no person may be evicted from premises that were occupied by that person as a residence for at least 30 days without an order from a court allowing for the eviction.
NY Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law, Article 7, Section 711 states in the preamble:
Sec. 711. GROUNDS WHERE LANDLORD-TENANT RELATIONSHIP EXISTS.
A tenant shall include an occupant of one or more rooms in a
rooming house or a resident, not including a transient occupant,
of one or more rooms in a hotel who has been in possession for
thirty consecutive days or longer; he shall not be removed from
possession except in a special proceeding. A special proceeding
may be maintained under this article upon the following grounds:
That means a ground for commencement of an eviction lawsuit must exist for a court to hear an eviction case and to decide if an eviction judgment should be granted.
Based upon your stated facts no court action took place and your co-tenant did not take the case before a judge. You may verify if that is the case at the Queens County Housing Court. Use the public access computer to verify that no lawsuit was started during your absence that led to a judgment. If no case was started against you, while you are at the Court you may initiate your own lawsuit against the co-tenant. The type of case is commonly called a "lock out" proceeding.
Look up information about an illegal lockout at:
"... Illegal Lock-outs
If you have legally occupied an apartment for at least 30 days (with or without a lease), you may not be evicted without a court order awarding a judgment of possession and warrant of eviction against you. This is a violation of the "illegal eviction law" and is a misdemeanor. You may click on unlawful eviction to review the law..." @ http://nycourts.gov/courts/nyc/housing/lockouts.shtml
An illegal or unlawful eviction is a criminal act as well. See:
Illegal Eviction Law
NYC Administrative Code § 26-521. Unlawful eviction.
You did not provide information about your subtenant. Is the "subtenant" in possession?
The loss and damage to your personal property cannot be handled in the Housing Court. You need a separate lawsuit for the loss of your property.
The answer provided to you is in the nature of general information. The general proposition being that you should try to avoid a bad outcome if you can.
You should commence an unlawful eviction action against your roommate. You should go the landlord-tenant court located at 89-17 Sutphin Blvd, Jamaica, NY 11435 and speak to someone at the Help Center in Room 235. They may be able to help you. Here is a link http://www.nycourts.gov/courts/nyc/housing/resourcecenter.shtml
The above answer is only for information. This answer and any response does not create an attorney-client relationship between the parties and the communication is not privileged and confidential. The best course of action is to consult with a lawyer about your specific case. If you need to contact me, please call at 212-537-6936 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The facts you have stated describe an unlawful eviction as well as conversion (civil theft/destruction) of personal property. It's a Class A misdemeanor to evict a person from a residential apartment "unlawfully", including by removing their personal belongings or changing the locks (without providing a new key). But, while it's possible to call the police and ask for their assistance, the police are not always able to (or interested in) helping evicted tenants.
If your main goal is to be restored to possession, your best bet probably is to bring an illegal lockout proceeding in the Queens County Civil Court of the City of New York. It is important to do this as soon as possible. If you convince the judge at a trial of all the facts you stated and the roommate cannot provide an adequate justification for her conduct, you may be entitled to a judgment that permanently restores you to possession. If your main goal is to recover money damages from your roommate, you can begin a civil lawsuit in the Queens County Supreme Court of the State of New York under RPAPL 853, which authorizes treble (x3) damages, and in addition to suing for conversion for the value of your discarded personal belongings, you also may be entitled to recover attorney's fees and the costs of litigation.
In my opinion, you have a genuine and serious legal problem, and I urge you to retain an experienced landlord-tenant attorney promptly. Please send me an email if you would like to discuss your rights further. Either way, I wish you the best of luck.
Simon W. Reiff