NEW YORK TENANTS NOW HAVE UNTIL SEPTEMBER 4, 2020
Last week, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an Executive Order extending prior eviction moratoriums by another thirty (30) days – that is, through September 4, 2020.
That decision—which allows for housing court proceedings to be paused—comes as a big reprieve for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers across the state. During a press briefing, Governor Cuomo noted, “[there would be] no evictions as long as we’re in this epidemic.”
It remains to be seen how the court system will interpret the Governor’s Order, however. The Office of Court Administration has now been authorized to continue the suspension of all eviction related deadlines, through September 4. Caitlin Girouard, the state's Press Secretary, noted, "We signed legislation, passed by both houses, codifying our previous executive action making it clear that New Yorkers couldn't be evicted due to a COVID-related hardship . . . The order signed last night continued provisions giving the courts and litigants the leeway to suspend deadlines related to civil litigation. How and if they use this authority when it comes to eviction proceedings is up to them."
As a reminder to our readers, only those tenants that are facing financial hardship due to COVID-19 are protected by this Executive Order. For a more substantive discussion on the legislative protections afforded to New York's residential tenants, please click here to read our piece on the Tenant Safe Harbor Act.
As for New York City—where the tenant numbers are by far the greatest—Mayor de Blasio acknowledged that extending the ban on evictions was just half the solution. Pro-tenant activists have been calling for “rent cancellation,” or some other form of economic relief from rental arrears. While the city has offered limited assistance to some tenants (read more, here), many are still awaiting a larger, more expansive response to the crisis.
“The best solution resides in Washington, DC — rental assistance for everyone who’s lost their job so they can keep their home, and landlords have the money to keep up their buildings,” de Blasio said. “But we have such a broken situation in Washington right now.”
A number of commentators have noted that the Washington finger-pointing is nothing but political scapegoatism. By way of example, The Crown Heights Tenant Union, in a statement issued last week, noted that, “To extend the eviction moratorium without also cancelling all rental debt accrued during the pandemic will only push this crisis into the future; the state must immediately cancel rent for all tenants for the entire duration of the state of emergency, and for at least 90 days after the state of emergency has ended.”
While we’re not sure that kind of response can be constitutionally justified, our local leaders need to step up and take action, once and for all. (It’s not only fundamentally unfair to keep the electorate in limbo, but a definitive fix is direly needed and long overdue.)
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DISCLAIMER: As COVID-19 related developments change daily, this must be viewed as an exceptionally fluid situation. Accordingly, prior to taking any action, we strongly urge you to contact our office to ascertain whether there has been any change that would impact any recommendations made, or whether there are discrete facts or developments which would warrant undertaking a different tact or course.