Landlords will sometimes ask if they can simply change the locks on their deadbeat tenants. I have to very quickly advise the landlord not to do that, or else.
Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law § 711 states that "[a] tenant ... shall not be removed from possession except in a special proceeding." In instances where a landlord (or an agent of the landlord) simply changes the locks, or otherwise bars a tenant from being in possession of the premises, the eviction will be considered illegal, and will subject the landlord to civil damages. Carter v. Andriani, 84 A.D.2d 513, 443 N.Y.S.2d 157 (1st Dept. 1981).