NEW YORK CITY SEEKS TO MEDIATE LANDLORD-TENANT DISPUTES
Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio launched the “Landlord-Tenant Mediation Project,” which hopes to provide housing security to tenants impacted by COVID19 and to help stem the anticipated flood of new eviction cases likely to be filed once Governor Cuomo's moratorium expires in late August.
This particular program will operate out of 27 neighborhoods across the city and will serve renters facing severe hardships due to the pandemic. The city will facilitate rent negotiations; encouraging landlords and tenants to resolve their disputes outside of the housing court context.
“As the City continues to beat back COVID-19, we must use every tool at our disposal to keep tenants safely in their homes, especially in communities that were already burdened by the affordable housing crisis," said Mayor de Blasio.
In line with the Mayor’s statement, city officials have confirmed that tenants and small landlords without legal representation will be prioritized, and that the city will partner with local Community Dispute Resolution Centers (CDRCs) in each borough, to manage case intake, schedule mediation sessions, and monitor case follow-up.
CDRCs will coordinate with Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants, and the Mayor's Public Engagement Unit, with additional support from the Human Resource Administration’s Office of Civil Justice.
With about 2 million New Yorkers filing for unemployment due to coronavirus, Louise Carroll, the Commissioner for Housing Preservation and Development, noted, “[The Landlord-Tenant Mediation Project] recognizes that business as usual is not enough …. We don’t want to put residents through the trauma of the eviction process just to get help.”
Skeptics describe this process as nothing but a political stunt; a “feel-good” measure that will lack the force of law -- as it remains to be seen whether any agreements brokered through this program will have any binding elements. And without any "teeth" -- holding a landlord or a tenant to the terms of any "deal" -- this well-intentioned process could end up being nothing but a toothless exercise.