Law enforcement officials explained the intricacies of the rental eviction process, as well as tenant rights, during a meeting at East Hampton Town Hall that attracted about two dozen members of the Latino community on Monday night.
East Hampton Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo was joined by Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Chris Guercio and Sergeant Vincent Aparicio, the latter of whom began the meeting by providing an overview of the eviction process; Lt. Guercio spoke in English with Sgt. Aparicio serving as his Spanish translator.
Lt. Guercio laid out the required actions that must be taken by landlords to start the eviction process. He explained that they must first file a “Notice To Quit,” which puts tenants on notice and explains why they are being asked to voluntarily move out of a rental home. Typically, the notice gives tenants between 10 and 30 days to vacate a home, depending on the reason.
“What will happen is when [a landlord] goes to court with his paperwork and stuff, he will have to fill out an affidavit saying that he did serve the ‘Notice To Quit’ to the tenant,” Sgt. Aparicio said while responding to a question from an audience member.
If a tenant ignores the notice, the landlord’s next step is to go to court and secure a “Warrant To Remove,” according to Lt. Guercio. Once a hearing date is scheduled and a “Notice Of Petition” is served to the tenant, the landlord and tenant will be afforded time to offer their side of events in a courtroom.
If a judge rules in favor of the landlord, a “Warrant Of Eviction” will be awarded and the landlord must then present the document to the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office for actual enforcement. Department officials will then give the offending tenant 72 hours to vacate the premises, though that time frame does not include Saturdays, Sundays or holidays. If the tenants ignores the warrant, county sheriffs can then forcibly remove them and their possessions.
If the judge rules in favor of the tenant, the landlord cannot continue pursuing an eviction based on the reason given.
Once the overview was completed, Minerva Perez, executive director of Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island, or OLA, reminded attendees that advocacy groups, like her organization and Long Island Housing Services, are available if they need assistance navigating the process. She then went on to talk about some of the troubles faced by tenants who are Latino, namely about how they can be discriminated against due to their race and language barriers.
If attendees feel like they’re being discriminated against or facing retaliation from a landlord after complaining to the town, or another agency, about an issue with their apartment or rental home, Ms. Perez reminded attendees that they need to reach out to advocates who can put them in touch with the necessary people. She also advised those already in court and fighting eviction proceedings without proper representation to reach out to her group and others to get help.
“There are going to be gray areas and what I would like to make sure that one main message that comes from this panel, knowing that there are all of these different levels and nuances to everyone’s individual case, is that if a person is feeling a level of harassment, intimidation, or fear—and I have gotten that understanding from Chief Sarlo in the past, that it is exactly what he wants to do, which is make sure that people are feeling supported and protected,” she said.
Maritza Guichay, co-chair of the East Hampton Latino Advisory Committee, which hosted Monday night’s meeting, said she was pleased that Chief Sarlo wants his department involved in the process—especially those cases in which tenants believe they are being unfairly targeted due to their nationality.
“I’m just really glad that the people got the information that the Chief of East Hampton wants to get involved with the community and help open the conversation for everyone,” Ms. Guichay said after the meeting. “He’s very welcoming and we want to give out that message to the public, especially the Latino community who feel that, for some reason … don’t want to get involved with the police. It’s one community and we are here for everyone.”