City evictions, possessions reach highest level in 10 years

Evictions and possessions hit a 10-year high, according to new figures reported in an annual housing survey by the New York City Rent Guidelines Board. 

The numbers do not appear to be driven up by the city’s wave of foreclosures, but by an increase in city marshals, who enforce evictions, said Ken Kelly, executive director of the New York City Marshals Association.

Dave Hanzel, policy director for the advocacy group Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, said the increase in evictions could be tied to aggressive landlords seeking higher rents.

“We are troubled but not surprised as tenants across the city have reported an increase in frivolous lawsuits that seek to push them out of their low-rent apartments,” he said.

The numbers, compiled by the Bureau of City Marshals, have risen steadily over the past three years from 21,945 in 2005 to 24,696 in 2007. They last topped 24,000 in 1997.

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Kelly said the city now has 43 marshals, up from about 30 several years ago.

As the subprime mortgage crisis rolls on, foreclosures will lead to more evictions, he said, as they wind their way through the legal pipeline.

“I think it is very conceivable given the current environment that there will be more and more evictions, because the foreclosure process can take a year or more,” Kelly said.

A tenant can only be evicted by a city marshal, and that action can occur only after a court, usually a civil court, issues an eviction warrant.

An eviction, the removal of the tenant’s belongings, most often occurs in public housing, while a possession, the changing of the locks of an apartment, are more common in privately-owned dwellings, Kelly said.

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