NY Landlord May Use “Self Help” to Evict

The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Term has just reaffirmed that a landlord, under certain circumstances, may evict a tenant utilizing classic “self help” and without court action.  In Sol De Ibiza, LLC v Panjo Realty, Inc. the landlord, after the tenant failed to comply with various rent demands, padlocked the door – which padlock the tenant then cut off – and which the landlord then replaced.  The Civil Court granted petitioner-tenant’s petition for restoration of possession and directed an assessment of damages pursuant to RPAPL Sect. 853, which essentially entitles someone who is ejected in a forcible or unlawful ejection to treble damages.  The Appellate Term reversed, ruling that this decision was premature, while affirming a NY landlord’s right to exercise self-help if:

  • the subject lease specifically reserves the landlord’s right to re-enter upon non-payment. The court determined that the lease language in this case was acceptable for such a reservation,
  • prior to reentry landlord serves a valid rent demand,
  • reentry was effected “peaceably,” a term not defined in this case, and • tenant, in fact, is in default in its obligation to pay rent.

Obviously there are real risks associated with a landlord electing to pursue such an aggressive course of action and, as always, even if the landlord proceeds correctly there will still be issues of proof. However, everything has its place, and if the circumstances support such an action, a “self help” eviction may be utilized without penalty.

Shepard A. Federgreen is a Director in the Gibbons Real Property & Environmental Department.

Print