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NYC tenants have rights when landlords illegally change locks

New York City landlords and tenants often have disagreements. From issues concerning rising rent payments, to maintenance obligations, it can at times be difficult to maintain an amicable landlord-tenant relationship. One particularly troublesome turn of events that may escalate a landlord-tenant dispute is if a landlord changes the locks on a rental property without providing the tenant with a key.

Under New York City's Administrative Code, a landlord who changes a resident's locks without providing the resident with a key has likely violated the city's Unlawful Eviction Law. Renters protected under this law are those who are tenants or subtenants with a lease, a legal occupant of an apartment for at least 30 days, as well as residents of rent-stabilized hotel rooms who have requested a lease.

Residents who have been locked out of their apartments will need to establish that they are in fact the lawful occupants of the apartment in contention in order to regain access. It may be wise to keep papers proving occupancy, such as a lease, utility bills or rent receipts, with a trusted friend or relative who lives elsewhere, should such documents be needed.

There are multiple ways for a tenant to handle a situation in which a landlord has changed the locks on his or her apartment. He or she may wish to report the illegal lock out to police at a local police station. Additionally, he or she may opt to pursue an "illegal lock out case" in New York City's Housing Court. An attorney can provide much-needed assistance in such a case, particularly as it pertains to establishing residency of an apartment.

A tenant who has been illegally locked out of his or her apartment may be worried and frightened. An attorney can provide prompt and effective help to resolve such a dispute.

Source:, "Tenants' Rights and Responsibilities," accessed August 7, 2016

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