Common Misconceptions About Landlord / Tenant Laws

Interviewer: What would you say are some of the most common misconceptions that landlords think?

Glen Malia: The most common misconception is let’s easily get rid of a bad tenant. There are many states where it’s easy. In New York State, it’s not easy to get rid of a tenant. In New York state, once you’ve allowed someone to live in your house or live on your property, even if that tenant had gave you -- and I’ve had a couple of cases like this recently where a tenant comes in as a tenant, gives you, the landlord, a check for security deposit and the first month’s rent and that tenant moves in and that check now bounces because it’s written on a closed account, you still need to go through the court process to get rid of that tenant. And unfortunately, that process can take, you know, a month or two.

The Biggest Misconception is that it’s Easy to Evict a Tenant in New York

In the perfect world, you have the tenant out there within a month, in the imperfect world, I’ve had cases which the tenants have been able to drag on, you know, fighting and kicking and been there 3, 4, 5 months. The biggest misconception is that’s easy to get rid of a tenant.

Mostly Eviction Cases Are Registered Against Tenants for Non-Payment of Rent

Interviewer: What kind of cases typically have a longer time?

Glen Malia: It’s tough to say. In New York State, the too many eviction cases are tenant who hasn’t paid the rents, it’s called the non-payment. And the second one is the tenant who has stayed over their lease term, at a holdover. If you’re talking about from the time we get into court till the time it’s all over, you know either one can take a long period of time. Actually, the non-payment could take longer because actually the non-payment can be dismissed if the tenant just pays the rent. But both of them can be dragged on by -- if it is attorney for the tenant who really knows the system and in particular, if there are any deficiencies in the paperwork, the paperwork they can file with court, the case can drag on.

For a Tenant Paying Monthly Rent Has to Be Given an Advance Notice Prior to Eviction

However, in terms of right from the very time of when you decide to commence the case, you decide to get rid of the tenant to actually getting with the tenant, I would say normally, the holdover case because unless the tenant has a written lease which expires on date certain like for example, the lease expires June 30 you know, then you go into court on July 1 where you serve the tenant with the paperwork on July 1 and be in court in the middle of July. If it’s a month-to-month tenant, then you, as a landlord, have to give a tenant a full notice a month in advance that they have to be out. So, the initiation from the time you decide to get rid of that month-to-month tenant to the time you go into court, you’ve now already got a whole month that period of time. Whereas with a non-payment, when you decide to start the action, you have to give your tenant either a written 3-day notice of non-payment of rent or make an oral demand for rent and then, you can start the action right away.

Judges may Relent If the Tenant Asks for More Time to Get Out

Once the action gets started, there’s a time lag depending by what court you’re in, how frequently the court meets, the tenant has to be served with the papers at least 5 days but not more than 12 days before the court date, so right from the very time that the paper get served on the tenant is already week before you’re in court. And when you go into court, the tenant can ask for the -- with the first time in court, the tenant’s going to absolutely always ask for an adjournment and the court will always grant it and depending upon most local courts in Westchester, Putnam and Duchess County sit only maybe once a week, someone sit less frequent to that and now, you got another week adjournment. So, you’re already two weeks in the matter before you really get into the mid of the issue and then, even if the judge right off the bat and the tenant says you know, “They are right”, the tenant can ask for more time to get out or something like that and the judges bend over backwards to keep the tenant from being evicted and put out on the streets, so the judge may agree, the judge may issue the paperwork called a judgment of warrant.

The Resolution of a Landlord / Tenant Case is Influenced By Several Factors

They allow the tenant to be evicted but they may stay the warrant of eviction and it would not become effective for a week, two weeks, a month and things of that nature. So, a lot depends on -- actually there’s several facts. How often the court meets? When you bring the action? If you bring the action in the beginning of December, you are not going to expect to get the tenant out until sometime in January because no judge is evicting over the holidays, and who the judge is and you know how solid the case is. But generally speaking, I advise clients that you’ve got to look at -- if you have to evict a tenant, before you get a new tenant in there, you’ve got to expect it’s going to be two months from the time you start the court process to get you in the position to have a new tenant come in. Sometimes it goes faster and that’s great, sometimes it goes longer, very rarely does it go longer but that way you could be certain that the tenant’s out and the new tenant can move in.

Malia Law, LLC located in Cortlandt Manor, NY represents Landlords/Tenants throughout Westchester County, Putnam County and Southern Dutchess County, NY.

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