It is against the law to lock a tenant out or remove his or her belongings without a court order following an eviction proceeding. Disregard for due process “is a violation of the law and a tenant can successfully seek a restraining order to prevent a self-help eviction,” says Callahan.
In an eviction case for no cause (without fault) or for nonpayment of rent, a tenant may raise counterclaims against the landlord for violation of the State Sanitary Code, violations of the lease, or other rights of the tenant to peaceful enjoyment of the premises. If the eviction is for some other alleged violation by the tenant, the notice must state the reasons and the tenant has the right to respond to the charges in the eviction case.
“Remember that a landlord cannot retaliate against a tenant for exercising his or her legal rights,” says Ponte. “For example, if a landlord attempts to raise your rent, or terminate your lease within six months of you contacting the board of health pursuant to sanitary code violations in your apartment, the landlord’s conduct will be presumed as retaliatory. The landlord will then have the burden to prove that his or her conduct was not the result of the tenant exercising his or her rights.”