The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every facet of life throughout the world, from a single individual to federal governments and international organizations. Among the most densely populated cities in the country, New York has been hit particularly hard. The City and State have enacted legislation trying to protect tenants, homeowners, and small businesses from further financial impact. The most recent action has been the state legislature’s extension of the eviction and foreclosure moratorium to August 31, 2021.
What is the moratorium?
Since early in the pandemic, New York has instituted a moratorium that prevents landlords from evicting tenants and small businesses who cannot pay due to financial hardship caused by the pandemic. There is also a moratorium on foreclosures which is beyond the scope of this blog.
There have been numerous extensions to the moratorium; the latest extending the moratorium from May 1 to August 31, 2021. The moratorium applies to any tenant who files a hardship declaration (which must be provided by the landlord with any rent demand, notice under the lease, or legal papers commencing the proceeding). The hardship declaration allows tenants to certify that they have been negatively impacted by Covid19 or that moving would pose a significant health risk.
Upon submission of the hardship declaration form to a court or the landlord’s attorney, the moratorium’s protections are automatic. A landlord (including a co-op) can only evict an individual who filed a hardship declaration if the tenant or occupant is “persistently and unreasonably engaging in behavior that substantially infringes on the use and enjoyment of other tenants or occupants or causes a substantial safety hazard to others.”
The pros and cons
As with any legislation, there are pros and cons, depending on who you ask.
For those in favor of the moratorium, the claim is that it protects vulnerable tenants and small businesses from financial ruin who cannot afford to pay rent due to the pandemic and its influence on the economy.
On the other hand, those opposed to the legislation say that it prevents landlords from collecting rent, receiving the income they need to meet expenses, having sufficient funds available to maintain and repair the building and pay their mortgage, taxes and utility bills.
Where are you?
If you have been served with papers from your landlord, or if you are a landlord seeking to commence an appropriate proceeding, it is important to know that you have rights. As complex a labyrinth as NYC’s landlord tenants laws normally are, they are exponentially more difficult now. You need an experienced attorney, like those at Tane Waterman & Wurtzel, P.C., to help you assert and protect those rights.