Whose House Is This? Pandemics, Evictions and Moratoriums

It is important to provide relief to tenants in financial distress through no fault of their own. However, the state would be wise to adjust the law to allow landlords to deal with problem tenants, unrelated to the pandemic.

The COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 (the Act) formally codified the eviction and foreclosure moratorium New York tenants and landlords have been living under since the issuance of Executive Order No. 202.8 on March 20, 2020. Signed into law on Dec. 28, 2020, the Act ensures New York renters and homeowners experiencing pandemic-related hardships can remain in their homes for the foreseeable future. The Act stays all residential eviction and foreclosure proceedings pending on Dec. 28, 2020, and any residential eviction or foreclosure proceedings commenced on or before Jan. 27, 2021, for a period of 60 days. The statute further provides that any renter or homeowner who files a hardship declaration, broadly defined as individuals who have lost income, are unable to pay increased costs, or are unable to move without significant risk to their health or the health of a family member, will be protected against eviction or foreclosure until May 1, 2021. Subsequent legislation was passed extending the Act’s protections through Aug. 31, 2021.

Under the statute, landlords must provide tenants with the state’s hardship declaration form, as well as contact information for submission. If a hardship declaration form is submitted, the tenant is entitled to relief. The new law does not provide landlords with a process for challenging a tenant’s hardship declaration.

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