Tenants financially burdened by the coronavirus pandemic will not face eviction proceedings until at least May 1, thanks the latest legislative action in New York.
The COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 prevents residential evictions, foreclosure proceedings, credit discrimination and negative credit reporting related to the pandemic.
The bill, signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday, also provides protection for landlords who still have mortgages to pay on rental property.
“When the COVID-19 pandemic began, we asked New Yorkers to protect each other by staying at home,” Cuomo said in a news release. “As we fight our way through the marathon this pandemic has become, we need to make sure New Yorkers still have homes to provide that protection.”
Cuomo earlier this year had extended his executive order that implemented an eviction moratorium, but it was set to expire on Thursday.
“This law adds to previous executive orders by protecting the needy and vulnerable who, through no fault of their own, face eviction during an incredibly difficult period for New York,” Cuomo said. “The more support we provide for tenants, mortgagors and seniors, the easier it will be for them to get back on their feet when the pandemic ends.”
Tenants who have an eviction currently in process will receive a two-month stay while any new eviction action cannot be processed until May 1.
“While we have much work ahead of us to provide struggling families and small businesses the support they need to get through this crisis, today was a step in the right direction,” state Assemblywoman Sarah Clark (D-Rochester) said in a statement. “This legislation will keep people in their homes and ensure a modicum of stability in such uncertain times. Housing is a basic human right, as well as a matter of public health and safety during a pandemic.”
Many landlords now face financial hardship as well. Paying mortgages on rental property becomes more difficult if the expected monthly rent payments are delayed, short or cannot be made at all.
That’s why the legislation includes provisions for small landlords — those who own 10 or fewer properties. They are allowed to file a hardship declaration with their mortgage lender, other foreclosing party or a court, thus preventing foreclosure.
There can be no negative credit decisions on homeowners who receive a stay on mortgage foreclosure, tax foreclosure or a tax lien sale, or if they file a hardship declaration.
Attorney Robert Friedman, partner at Friedman & Ranzenhofer, said some landlords have, over the past several weeks and months, been working with tenants to create payment schedules or make other arrangements that allow for at least partial payments to be made.
“You can sympathize with both the landlords and the tenants,” he said. “And the landlords are still obligated to maintain the apartments.”
Three Rochester Assembly members — Clark, Demond Meeks and Harry Bronson — were among 55 co-sponsors of the bill in the Assembly.
“Ensuring our families and children have a safe place to call home during this pandemic is essential,” Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said. “I am thankful to the state Legislature and Gov. Cuomo for taking action to ensure that no one impacted by COVID-19 loses the roof over their head this winter.
“Earlier this month, our local delegation and I agreed that protecting renters and homeowners was critical. Now, we will continue our work to recover together from this awful disease and its effects on our city.”
In order to qualify for the eviction protection, tenants must submit a hardship declaration, or a document explaining the source of the hardship.
A tenant may still be subject to eviction if they create safety or health hazards for other tenants, or if they do not submit hardship declarations.
Even when the moratorium ends, evictions quite likely won’t be fast-tracked. There already is a backlog and courts will be overloaded with new cases.
That means the court system will very likely face a shortage of arbitrators, since judges usually prefer tenant/landlord mediation before an eviction case reaches the courtroom, Friedman said.
Also included in the bill is extension of the Senior Citizens’ Homeowner Exemption (SCHE) and the Disabled Homeowner Exemption (DHE).
That means local governments are required to carry over those exemptions from the 2020 assessment roll to the 2021 assessment roll at the same levels.
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