New York City Realestate Question

I subletted my Manhattan apartment beginning December 12, 2003 up through and including January 31, 2004 (the end of my lease). I have growing concerns that the subleasee will not move out on January 31 (or “squat” as I believe the term is).

When we agreed on the conditions of the sublease, I emailed him a sublet agreement which he never signed. I foolishly never pressed him on it, assuming he would just get out, or re-sign the lease on or before January 31, 2004.

Let’s say he tells me, “sorry, I can’t move out, nor can I pay rent.” What action can I take? As it is still my apartment, can I have him arrested for trespassing? My thinking here is to avoid the charge, he would have to sign the agreement I sent him (thus proving he can legally be on the premises) and as soon as he signs it, he executes the agreement and in accordance with it has to move out on 1/31. I would imagine that’s probably a pretty simplistic way of looking at it, are there any expert dopers out there who can shed some light on this?

All searches on NYC housing authority-related websites have yielded poor results - they are loaded with tenant’s rights, but short on landlord/sublettor rights.

The sublettor is not a US citizen, if that makes any difference.

I think you need to talk to a lawyer pronto. As you are apparently aware, tenants in NYC have all kinds of rights. This is an area where there are lots of traps for unwary landlords. I suggest you call the NYC Bar Association Referral Service – 212-626-7373 – and ask for a landlord/tenant attorney. You’ll get to meet with the attorney for half an hour for 35 bucks.

I am a New York lawyer familiar with these issues, but I am not your lawyer. The following is not legal advice, but a general discussion of the law. If you are looking for particular advice regarding your own situation, please hire your own lawyer. If this situation turns out as you fear, it is likely that you will need one.

As a general matter, when a tenant under a lease (including a sublease) stays past the end of the lease or sublease, it is considered a holdover. For a landlord (including a sublessor) to evict the holdover tenant, the landlord must serve a legally required notice to the tenant (commonly known as a 3-day notice of a 5-day notice, depending on the situation), and then commence an eviction proceeding in housing court (in New York City, the Landlord & Tenant division of the Civil Court). The citizenship status of the tenant should be irrelvant.

It is illegal to try to evict a tenant without a warrant of eviction from court. If you try to lock a tenant out you may be subject to criminal prosecution and substantial civil penalties. Needless to say, the police will not help you, even if you claim “tresspassing.”

New York real estate law is very tenant-friendly, though many of the tenant-friendly provisions were put in place to protect against some truly scummy landlords. There are likely few web resources about landlord rights because most landlords have their own legal counsel. Also, be careful about what you read on many tenant-related websites (or any websites, including this one) because I’ve found many of the legal conclusions posted on them to be dead wrong.

Good luck with your situation.