What is the law in NY about kicking people out of their home?
April 9, 2019 10:54 AM   Subscribe

We're trying to save a friend from a bad situation and a bad guy, but not sure how to handle it or if it can be handled cheaply.

My friend's sister has been living rent free for over a year in an apartment owned by her now ex boyfriend. She's unable to work until the middle of 2020. When he purchased the place he put the title under an LLC, but it's not for business. He basically bought it to house them in because (as she found out later) he had another family elsewhere. That explains the LLC rather than putting it in his own name. When she found out he moved out and she's been staying there rent free for a little over a year now. She's been very grateful to him for it, but some of us have been warning her for a long time now that he's not as nice as he appears. It's not really free. He just likes sucking the emotional life out of her.

For example we've heard her say to him various times in regards to many things. '-I'm grateful and whatever you want to do is fine. Just please tell me in advance so that I can prepare for it.' He promises he will do that, but he never ever does. And he appears to enjoy this.

Just one example of this is that he'll tell her that he's giving her $200 a month for 16 months and she'd plan her meals and everything for the based on that promise, but instead of giving her the notice she requested he would just suddenly just stop giving it to her well before the 16 months. Without telling her at all that she wasn't going to receive it even though he's extremely wealthy (he flys private a lot) and it's nothing to him. Then she'll go to pick up the check and literally find out that way. When she (and we) try to ask him why he just smirks and gives no response. Like wtf? All she asked was that you tell her in advance so that she knows what kind of food to shop for or if she needs to borrow anything? Why would you just surprise her like that? And then seemingly enjoy the turmoil?? We think the man is sadistic.

There were so many times when she asked to be told about various things in advance so that she can soften the landing on herself and he would just promise to do that and then not do it and laugh about it.

I won't give more even worse examples for the sake of brevity, but we're now absolutely certain this man is not at all above surprising her one day by making her come home to a locked door and being unable to get into her apt and her things removed from it. Or even just telling her she has 3 days to move out when he knows that's not enough time for her to find something.

We know she needs to get out of this situation and away from him, but because she believed him at first, she wasn't prepared and she's now not really able to financially leave until the middle of 2020 like originally planned. We're going to try to help her make that earlier but even then it would be December of 2019 at best. We changed the locks so that he can't get in, but since he owns the condo he could easily just take them off.

What are her rights in this? She needs to be able to stay there for at least another 10 months and he's not going to put it in writing. (always refuses to put anything in writing) even though he did originally promise it.
posted by fantasticness to Home & Garden (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
This question is quite specific to your individual circumstances, so this is lawyer-worthy.

However, I will note that generally, forcing a person (ex-boyfriend) to provide housing for a person for over 8 months when they are not married to that person is not something the law tends to support. Palimony is not really a thing in New York. Further, locking someone out of their own condo (!) is not a great idea.
posted by saeculorum at 11:08 AM on April 9 [12 favorites]


Having just dealt with someone living rent-free in my space for a period of way too long four months, I will make my best attempt to answer this without bias :)

I don't know the specifics of tenant law in New York, so seconding the "consult a lawyer" advice above. But he probably can't evict her without giving her a certain amount of notice-- probably 30 days. Furthermore, he may think he's protecting himself by refusing to put anything in writing, but he's not. He would be much better off with some kind of written agreement. (And what is going on with claiming a property as an LLC? Seems sketchy.) That said, while legally he may have made some mistakes, it would be very easy for him to frame this to third parties in a way that makes him out to be the victim. This would be a particular concern if he turns her out and she has to go to the police to get back in the house.

Changing the locks was.... not ideal.... but since it sounds like he's using money to manipulate her, it was probably a good idea from that perspective. Is there some reason she can't look for work or move out until 2020? Is she disabled or waiting on a green card? I'd pull in some resources for people in her specific situation, as well as a a domestic violence counselor or even just a phone call to a DV hotline.

Good luck, she probably has more rights here than you think.
posted by coffeeand at 11:31 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


All of the details of their personal relationship are completely irrelevant. You have a family member who has been living rent-free in an apartment in NYC without a lease, and you want to know a) what the procedure for her ex to legally evict her would be, and b) what she should do if she's illegally evicted.

A lease is not required for legal occupancy in NY. In NYC without a lease, he would normally have to give her 30 days notice, and it would be illegal for him to evict her without that notice. (She could chose not to leave, and force him to go to court to get an eviction order, but she would lose and have to pay his legal costs, so that isn't the route she wants to take.) I have no idea if this is true if she has never paid any rent, though it certainly applies to people who have stopped paying rent; she should contact a tenants rights group in NY to find out.

After consulting a tenants rights groups, if she is just randomly evicted one day (ie, the locks are changed), she should follow the directions in the grey box on that page that apply to her.

I would point out that while he is not obligated to house her, she is also not obligated to refrain from telling his family about his duplicity. She is not without leverage here to secure her housing through a reasonable notice period.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:33 AM on April 9 [8 favorites]


Most likely, if she is living there by invitation and has never paid any rent, she is a licensee, not a tenant. A licensee is entitled only to a ten-day notice to quit.

(However, it is just possible that if he has explicitly promised to let her stay in the building for a fixed period short of a year, she might have a oral lease and would be entitled to remain until the end of that period. This would be very difficult to establish, and if it came to that almost any solution would be better than fighting that point out.)

Just from a practical point of view, if it were me, I would be emphasizing getting her the hell out of there and away from him over everything else.
posted by praemunire at 11:41 AM on April 9 [12 favorites]


Your friend can contact legal aid and go through their intake process, and they will likely help with finding an attorney (Get a lawyer, MeFi Wiki) who can handle this in a cost effective manner. There are likely more options beyond what is written in the law that can be explored, but an attorney in your jurisdiction with all of the facts of the case can explain more about those options.

If the property is within NYC, the NYC Bar Legal Referral Service may also be able to assist with finding an affordable attorney. The NY State Bar Association also offers a lawyer referral service that can be contacted for assistance.
posted by Little Dawn at 11:50 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


She needs a lawyer. Please don't listen to anything anyone here says with confidence, especially anyone saying that your friend "definitely" doesn't have certain rights or would "definitely" lose. We don't know enough to know that, and it's a wickedly complicated question. I wish non-lawyers would refrain from making those kinds of statements. They are worse than useless; they could actively mislead someone.

Beyond the legal issues, it may be possible that, for example, this guy would be willing to pay a lump sum just to avoid having an eviction fight, even if he would win it or even if he is technically right in terms of the law. As Little Dawn wisely says, "There are likely more options beyond what is written in the law that can be explored, but an attorney in your jurisdiction with all of the facts of the case can explain more about those options."
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:07 PM on April 9 [10 favorites]


She needs proof that she has been a long term tenant of the apartment. Mail such as utility bills of some sort (like cable) or credit card or landline phone. These should be kept offsite, and she should keep a couple with her.
She should do an occasional video tour of the place, post it on a private youtube so that the date is established.
She needs a warning if he tries to empty the place, a wyze camera is cheap and will send an alert.
Since NY is a one party consent state, she can record conversations. (IANAL) If he tries to evict her early, she can use those as a basis for motions, which may buy her another month of court delays.
posted by Sophont at 12:16 PM on April 9


Is this New York state or New York City?

New York state has squatter's rights everywhere after they've lived there for 30 days, so if he wants her out he's going to have to go through a full eviction. Rent-free in the interim? Perhaps!

Has he been moved out for over 30 days? She maybe be able to change the locks on him.

Does his other family know about all this? That could be leverage if not. Regardless, the prospect of having to put his name on court filings to evict her may teach him some manners and make this situation more predictable.

A lawyer is a good idea, but a lot of these questions are asked (in varying forms) often enough for a person to be able to get a decent idea of where they stand. There are also (often free) tenants rights organizations who know the law quite well, depending on where this is happening.
posted by rhizome at 12:17 PM on April 9


However, I will note that generally, forcing a person (ex-boyfriend) to provide housing for a person for over 8 months when they are not married to that person is not something the law tends to support. Palimony is not really a thing in New York. Further, locking someone out of their own condo (!) is not a great idea.

Since this has so many favorites, I want to point out that this answer is not even on-topic enough to be wrong. Sorry to be harsh, but this is why answering these kinds of questions as a non-lawyer is risky. Palimony is just one theory by which the OP's friend might be allowed to stay in this home or recover damages. There are a number of other theories by which this woman might have some claim to certain rights and/or remedies. These would include contract law; equitable estoppel (aka "harmful reliance" or quasi-contract); landlord-tenant law; maybe even tort law. So, okay, maybe "palimony" isn't really a thing---but that fact does not answer this question at all.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:33 PM on April 9 [15 favorites]


New York state has squatter's rights everywhere after they've lived there for 30 days, so if he wants her out he's going to have to go through a full eviction. Rent-free in the interim? Perhaps!

Squatters are occupying the property without permission.

I feel like we run through this kind of a lot; real-estate law is so very jurisdiction-specific that if you aren't a lawyer or experienced advocate and familiar with that jurisdiction's laws, your legal advice, while well-meaning, has a too-high probability of being misleading or even harmful.

I reread this post trying to figure out why OP thinks the friend's sister is entitled to anything whatsoever from this guy and I'm drawing a blank. He sounds like a class AAA jerk she would be well-quit of (and frankly throws up all sorts of red flags as a potential abuser), but she is a grown person with, as far as I can tell, no formal legal ties to him. I really think it would be better to focus on getting her to self-sufficiency rather than latching onto the hope of wringing resources out of him. Anything he gives voluntarily will clearly have nasty strings attached. There don't seem to be obvious great arguments for him owing her anything involuntarily.
posted by praemunire at 1:45 PM on April 9 [14 favorites]


It is NYC.

"She needs proof that she has been a long term tenant of the apartment. Mail such as utility bills of some sort (like cable) or credit card or landline phone. These should be kept offsite, and she should keep a couple with her."

I believe the internet service might be in her name. But also the building staff sees her everyday coming in and out as well as her neighbors. There's also saved emails and texts stating that she lives there from the ex.
posted by fantasticness at 1:45 PM on April 9


Sorry to be harsh, but this is why answering these kinds of questions as a non-lawyer is risky.

Please be harsh - AskMeFi would be better for it.

However, I still disagree with you. You'll note I said "generally" and not "always". Further, the thing about lawyers is they offer only a chance of success, but offer a guarantee of charging money. Lawyers are not a panacea - in cases like these, there's a risk a lawyer charges a significant amount of money and comes back with the answer of, "actually, there's nothing you can do." So far as I can tell, the OP would define even a single hour of lawyer time as a significant amount of money.

I'm comfortable saying that spending any money on a lawyer here is risky unless there are exceptionally specific circumstances that apply. That doesn't mean those circumstances don't apply. It just means that the OP should be cognizant that they may go to a lawyer and gain nothing other than a lighter wallet. The OP should consider that the money that may be used to move their sister will definitely help her situation, whereas the same money spent on a lawyer may not.
posted by saeculorum at 1:51 PM on April 9 [4 favorites]


Does his other family know about all this? That could be leverage if not.

Circling back: threatening to tell his family unless he lets her stay on at his property/gives her money would be what is known as blackmail, a felony under New York law. DO NOT DO THIS.
posted by praemunire at 1:53 PM on April 9 [3 favorites]


I'm comfortable saying that spending any money on a lawyer here is risky unless there are exceptionally specific circumstances that apply.

This. Getting a lawyer is good advice, but unless you can find one willing to do pro bono work, it sounds like resources here are limited and would be better spent getting her out of this situation entirely.
posted by coffeeand at 2:32 PM on April 9 [3 favorites]


As someone who's gone legal on a landlord in the past, stood at the crossroads multiple times since, AND at one point lived in a strange situation like this for a year, i'd stop short of spending any money on a lawyer here unless she literally gets thrown out and it really seems worth it. Spend every dollar on just leaving.

Check around for a local tenants union or free legal clinic. But really, just mobilize every person and resource you have to just drum up cash and get her out of there. Any motion to gotcha him into being forced to let her stay should only be used as a temporary respite to get out

There's so many other things here he could do to harass her if you retaliate that might be "illegal", but in ways that would be irrelevant to anyone with that much money

Do you even have time to go to housing court if he pulls some kind of self help eviction stunt? Those are the sort of questions you should all be asking each other, as the collective support network of her.
posted by emptythought at 2:38 PM on April 9 [7 favorites]


Yeah, it seems the non lawyers dispensing wrong advice are typically the most confident. Look up ejectment actions in Supreme Court. If someone never paid rent, they are not a tenant and not entitled to those rights.
posted by kinoeye at 2:46 PM on April 9


Breaking news: She just emailed us copies of documents her ex made her sign when she moved in. And there's a line that states: Occupant(s) - (Her Name is listed) Then is says Primary Residence until - and then on the line is written (NO END DATE).

Omg. This looks amazing. It turns out he didn't want to put himself as an occupant at all even when he lived there. He only wanted her on it to cover his butt with his other family. I think he totally forgot he had her sign this when he was finalizing the purchase of the place.

Based on what's been suggested in this topic so far it seems like with this document showing what the owner originally intended -to have her stay there without rent or end date we can at least hold this document up against him before she's able to leave on her own!
posted by fantasticness at 3:35 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


Unless a lawyer advises you otherwise, I would not automatically assume that being listed as an occupant with no end date gives you permanent squatting rights.

I am beyond stunned at changing the locks. You do realize that he's the actual owner, right? Regardless of whether or not he's a massive jerk - which yes, he certainly sounds like.

Your friend will be much better off the sooner she is free from this guy - which means exactly the opposite of trying to find a legal way to force him to let her stay for free for many many more months (whether or not such a legal way exists). Whatever is causing your friend to be unable to work almost certainly has some kind of support networks available, formal or informal - most people in her situation are not getting free rent, so what are they doing to survive?
posted by randomnity at 4:11 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


Breaking news: She just emailed us copies of documents her ex made her sign when she moved in. And there's a line that states: Occupant(s) - (Her Name is listed) Then is says Primary Residence until - and then on the line is written (NO END DATE).

That means little to nothing. If anything, it blows up any claim of squatting, as it indicates she has had permission to be there. And you can always revoke a license granted to a licensee.

Am I missing something? Is there some reason you feel that this woman is entitled to live off this guy rent-free indefinitely? I really feel like I'm missing something here.
posted by praemunire at 4:16 PM on April 9 [15 favorites]


Based on what's been suggested in this topic so far it seems like with this document showing what the owner originally intended -to have her stay there without rent or end date we can at least hold this document up against him before she's able to leave on her own!

Seriously, if you want to help your friend, stop relying on the terrible legal information posted in this thread, and tell your friend to CONTACT A LAWYER, and tell her that the first words out of her mouth should include, "HE'S RICH."

It is a completely different legal world when your opposing party is a rich person trying to maintain their privacy. This is likely an easy case, if you avoid relying on the extremely terrible legal information posted in this thread.
posted by Little Dawn at 4:30 PM on April 9 [4 favorites]


Seriously, if you want to help your friend, stop relying on the terrible legal information posted in this thread, and tell your friend to CONTACT A LAWYER, and tell her that the first words out of her mouth should include, "HE'S RICH."

If he's private-jet rich, she's screwed whether she gets a lawyer or not. Certain kinds of money are above the law. Which is why the law is not always the most effective tool to fight them.
posted by coffeeand at 4:45 PM on April 9


This is likely an easy case, if you avoid relying on the extremely terrible legal information posted in this thread.

Not only am I a NY-licensed and -practicing lawyer, I have actually litigated housing cases involving evictions. If you think I've misstated the law, by all means, correct me. But, even from a practical point of view, someone who is apparently dirt-poor and so utterly unable to care for herself that the only means anyone can think of to secure her welfare is to have her cling onto someone who sounds like a borderline abuser going up legally against a wealthy person, with her sole "leverage" being information of a mildly embarrassing nature, is unlikely to do very well. He doesn't even have to be "above the law" wealthy, just wealthy enough to retain decent counsel. I haven't researched this, but I know she can be charged with the costs of a special proceeding to enforce a notice to quit if she provokes one out of him and I strongly suspect that if she holds over past the notice to quit she is at risk of being held liable for some form of rent past that date. It doesn't sound like she has a dime to pay that. And what is she going to pay a lawyer with if she somehow manages to establish some kind of right to remain? Nights crashing on the couch?
posted by praemunire at 5:01 PM on April 9 [16 favorites]


And what is she going to pay a lawyer with if she somehow manages to establish some kind of right to remain?

In my experience as a legal aid attorney representing tenants, I've noticed that private attorneys seemed happy to take cases when the opposing party had a lot of money, perhaps because the applicable laws allowed them to seek attorney fees from the opposing party. I'm just suggesting that an attorney who understands how these cases can work be contacted, so the actual options available can be explored. This sounds like a 'case' where the text of the law is likely irrelevant, and a settlement agreement should not be too difficult to create and keep out of the courts.
posted by Little Dawn at 5:07 PM on April 9 [2 favorites]


MeTa
posted by rhizome at 6:06 PM on April 9


There are (at least) 2 issues here; 1 legal, 1 personal. New York has Tenants' Rights organizations who can assist with legal issues of eviction. But she is for some reason unable to work, and doesn't seem to have disability pay or other resources. She is in an undefined relationship with a man who has a marriage & family. It doesn't sound like a healthy relationship on several levels. She has people worrying on her behalf an dis not advocating for herself. NYC almost certainly has mental health resources for her, and I recommend helping her identify some mental health care and sign up.
posted by theora55 at 10:50 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


" with her sole "leverage" being information of a mildly embarrassing nature... "

?? Having a relationship with another woman for years without that woman knowing he also had another family elsewhere only causing 'mild embarrassment'? There would be way bigger repercussions than that if MY wife found out about something like that.

Anyway, I don't know where all these ideas about leverage came about as it was never mentioned. Yes I suppose she could technically destroy his life, but she doesn't want to hurt anyone. In fact her brother is the one that keeps saying he's going to blow up the guy's life and she's the one who keeps trying to stop him from doing it.

I personally assume his wife and fam will find out at some point anyway considering how sloppy he's been and his other mistress (who may also not be aware of his family). Not sure if any of this is even related to the question, but since others brought it up for some reason...

We're now looking into getting her some help. thx all!
posted by fantasticness at 9:43 AM on April 11


« Older What are potential legal issues w/living in a...   |   How much do ACA premiums cost in Texas? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments