Coronavirus-Related Eviction Bans in New York

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 What Does Eviction Mean?

Evictions are legal processes in which courts order the removal of a tenant from their rented apartment or home based upon a request from the landlord. Landlords are required to have justified and specific reasons for why the tenant needs to be evicted.

There are many reasons why landlords may need to evict tenants from rental properties. These reasons may include:

  • The tenant stopped paying rent for a certain period of time;
  • The tenant or the tenant’s guests have damaged the rental property;
  • The tenant has breached the terms of the rental agreement or lease lease, which may include smoking in a non-smoking building or keeping a pet despite a prohibition of pets restriction in the lease; and
  • The tenant did not move out after their lease expired and is then considered a squatter.

Most eviction actions occur between tenants and landlords that are associated with residential property locations, which usually includes homes and apartment buildings. However, the process can also be used to remove tenants from rented commercial buildings, including business offices.

It is important for any tenant or landlord to be aware that the eviction process usually involves multiple steps with strict legal requirements for both parties. The requirements are governed by the laws of the state where the rental property is located. Therefore, they may vary depending upon the jurisdiction of the eviction.

What are Eviction Bans?

An eviction ban, which is also known as a moratorium on evictions, has been enacted by the federal government, state governments, as well as cities and counties in response to the coronavirus pandemic. This type of ban prohibits landlords from taking certain actions during the ban, including:

  • Evictions;
  • Shutting off utilities due to nonpayment; and
  • Late rent fees.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued their Agency Order on September 1, 2020, entitled Temporary Halt in Residential Eviction to Prevent Further Spread of COVID-19. However, this order ended on July 31, 2021.

Does New York Have Any Eviction Ban Laws Related to COVID-19 Issues? 

Although the nationwide ban on evictions discussed in the previous section has ended, a state is still allowed to ban evictions as well as enact other tenant protections. The State of New York has enacted an eviction ban that lasts through August 31, 2021. In addition, there is a hold on utility shut offs for essential utilities and municipal services.

If a New York resident has experienced a loss of income due to COVID-19 pandemic and they are in arrears for their utility or municipal bills, they must self-certify to their utility or municipality in order to protect their account from shut off. The utility company or municipality is required to offer a deferred payment agreement with no money down, late fees, or interest.

It is important to note that the moratorium will not pay the utility bill and any unpaid balance will be due after the moratorium is over. It is important to continue making what payments are possible during this time, as the individual will still owe for services provided. The temporary protections provided by the moratorium will expire in December 2021.

In addition, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have prohibited landlords of multi-family properties with mortgages back from the companies from evicting a tenant until at least September 30, 2021. If an individual believes their rental is covered by this eviction ban, they can visit the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac website and enter their address. 

What if I’m Being Evicted Due to a Coronavirus Issue? What Protections Do I Have Under New York Laws?

As noted in the previous section, the State of New York has enacted a moratorium on evictions until August 31, 2021 as well as a hold on essential utility and municipal services shut offs effective until December 2021.

While these protections are currently in place, they will soon come to an end. At that time, a tenant may still have some available protections. It is important to check with an attorney for the most up-to-date information regarding the protections issued by the State of New York. Although most protections are coming to an end, in some cases, they may be extended.

What Other Tenant Protections and Resources in New York are Related to Coronavirus? 

In addition to the protections noted above, as of June 1, 2021, the New York State Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) will be providing economic relief to assist low and moderate income households that are at risk of experiencing housing instability or homelessness. This will be accomplished by providing:

  • Rental arrears;
  • Temporary rental assistance; and
  • Utility arrears assistance.

In most cases, if an individual applies to the ERAP, it will prevent an eviction case from being filed against them. In addition, there are no immigration status requirements to apply for this program. 

It is important to note that some cities have accepted federal funding and will be administering the programs themselves, including:

  • The City of Rochester and Monroe County;
  • The City of Yonkers;
  • Onondaga County; 
  • Hempstead;
  • Islip; and
  • Oyster Bay.

Residents of these areas are required to apply for the program locally and are not eligible for assistance from the state-administered ERAP. An individual can submit a Hardship Declaration if they have faced one or more of the following challenges due to COVID-19:

  • The loss of significant household income;
  • An increase in expenses related to health impacts or essential work;
  • Childcare or family care expenses which has negatively affected finances;
  • The inability to obtain meaningful employment due to circumstances related to coronavirus;
  • The inability to afford to move or difficulty securing alternative housing; and
  • Moving or vacating a current residence would pose a significant health risk to the individual or a member of their household due to:
    • Age (over 65);
    • Disability status; or
    • An underlying medical condition.

It is important to note that just because there is a ban on evictions or a moratorium on utility shut offs does not mean the tenant or customer should stop paying their rent or bills. The individual will still owe these amounts once the protections have ended.

Should I Contact a New York Lawyer If I Have COVID-19 Eviction Issues?

Yes, it is essential to contact a New York real estate lawyer for any COVID-19 eviction or utility issues you may be facing. The eviction process includes many complex legal procedures and requirements.

An eviction can also be a stressful and emotional experience for everyone involved. If you are a tenant, your lawyer can help determine whether there are any defenses that are available to you for the eviction. 

Your attorney can also advise you regarding the most current laws in your state, what to expect at a hearing, and assist with an appeal, if necessary. They can also provide guidance regarding ways to help stop an eviction before it starts.

If you are a landlord that is required to commence an eviction, your attorney will help to ensure that you have followed the proper procedures for an eviction in your state as well as assist you with defending an appeal, if one is filed. Your attorney will also provide guidance regarding your rights as the owner of a rental property. 

It is important to remember that there may be free local resources that are available to you, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Utilizing available free resources and having a lawyer on your side gives you the best chance at a successful outcome or at least a compromise which may prevent an eviction.

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