Illegal Evictions Are Rising Across The State, But Landlords Rarely Face Consequences

New York Focus, October 21, 2021

There’s a growing trend of landlords changing locks and shutting off utilities to get tenants out without going to court, tenant organizers say.

Published in partnership with City & State.

Tamel Anderson thought he had finally found himself an apartment in a nice part of town. This spring, he moved into a place on Albany’s Ten Broeck Street, just a few blocks from downtown. It was a basement apartment, and overpriced, Anderson thought, but it was better than nothing, and Anderson agreed to move in without a lease until some repair work was done, he said.

But a little over a month later, Anderson said, the landlord began taking a series of increasingly severe steps to get him out of the apartment.

For the past eighteen months, renters in New York and across the country have been protected by a variety of emergency measures meant to keep people in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Officially, these protections have slowed evictions in the state to a trickle: In New York City, for example, marshals have executed just 72 evictions since the start of the pandemic – only a few more than they carried out every day in 2017.

But off the books, a very different story has been unfolding as landlords, sometimes frustrated by the eviction moratorium, take matters into their own hands. Tenant organizers across the state say there’s a dire, and growing, trend of landlords changing locks, shutting off utilities and taking other drastic measures to get tenants out – and court data shows that few of these landlords face legal consequences.

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