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60-day reprieve for renters, small landlords

Legislature, Cuomo back measures Monday to protect tenants, property owners

December 30, 2020 David Brand
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New York state lawmakers convened Monday to pass a series of new tenant and property owner protections designed to keep people in their homes for at least two more months. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed the legislation that halts evictions and foreclosures.

The Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act, introduced by Sen. Brian Kavanagh (D-Northwest Brooklyn Waterfront-Lower Manhattan) and Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Riverdale-Kingsbridge), halts for 60 days all pending eviction proceedings and any proceedings that began within a month of the bill becoming law.

Tenants can seek an additional delay until May 1, 2021 by submitting a “Standardized Hardship Declaration Form” — newly created document —demonstrating they were financially impacted by the COVID crisis.

The measure would also protect residential landlords from foreclosure or tax lien sales if they own 10 or fewer units, including their own primary residence. Under the bill, Landlords will be able to submit a version of the hardship declaration form to their mortgage lender, local assessor or local Housing Court demonstrating how COVID has affected ability to pay their mortgage or taxes.

New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said the bill “will help ensure New York tenants, homeowners, and small landlords will not have to fear being kicked out of their homes if they’ve been impacted by this pandemic and economic crisis.”

The hardship declaration form standardizes a key component of the state’s Tenant Safe Harbor Act, which gives tenants a potential defense against eviction if they can prove their ability to pay rent was impacted by the COVID crisis.

Cuomo said he would sign the legislation to protect landlords as well as tenants.

“We want to make sure that homeowners are protected, that it doesn’t affect their credit rating, there’s no mortgage foreclosure,” he said during a press briefing Monday. “We want to get to May 1 and we’ll see what happens by May but we want to protect tenants.”

State court leaders first suspended evictions March 16, with Cuomo then issuing a series of executive orders establishing an eviction moratorium. That moratorium ended in November, allowing marshals to execute evictions in cases adjudicated before mid-March.

Marshals have completed at least nine evictions in New York City since mid-March, including one in Corona Nov. 30, accordion to city records

The new legislation received praise from tenants’ rights advocates who have warned of a pending surge in evictions as a result of the COVID-19 economic and health crises.

Judith Goldiner, head of the Legal Aid Society’s Civil Law Reform Unit, said the bill will “literally save lives.”

“Not only does it institute a true and full moratorium for 60 days – enough time hopefully to carry people through the darkest remaining days of this pandemic – but it creates tools enabling tenants to seek to halt an eviction at any point in the process, even after a case has been adjudicated and resulted in an eviction warrant,” she said.

But the Rent Stabilization Association, the state’s largest organization representing small residential property owners, said a blanket eviction moratorium without a requirement for proving financial hardship will only discourage tenants from paying rent.

“This proposed bill extends the eviction moratorium for residential tenants based on the submission of a simple declaration of financial hardship without proving such hardship caused by COVID-related job loss or income reduction,” said RSA President Joseph Strasburg.

Strasburg referenced advocates’ warnings about a “tsunami of evictions” that could hit the state without protections in place.

“The tsunami of evictions is not occurring; in fact, a minimal number of evictions have been executed since March 7 — and those cases pre-dated March 7,” he said. ”Tenants have been protected by the governor’s eviction moratorium executive orders and the Safe Harbor Act.”

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