NEW YORK LAWMAKERS ARE STILL SLUMBERING
The New York State Legislature recently approved sweeping protections which provide tenants and mortgagors some pandemic relief ... at least until May of 2021.
According to the new law, any pending or new eviction proceeding commenced within 30 days of the legislation taking effect, will be halted for at least 60 days. During that time, tenants who have lost jobs or experienced a reduction in income due to the pandemic can submit financial hardship declarations. And, if COVID related hardship demonstrations can be made, they will be protected from displacement until May 1, 2021.
The law similarly prohibits residential foreclosure proceedings until May 1. Qualifying homeowners and landlords -- those who own 10 or fewer residences -- can also file financial hardship declarations with their mortgage lender and/or a court to prevent the initiation, or stop the prosecution, of a foreclosure case.
The legislation is being lauded as affording some of the strongest tenant protections in the nation. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins noted in a statement, “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.”
Not everyone is pleased, however. Jay Martin, the executive director of landlord lobbying group known as Community Housing Improvement Program (or CHIP, for short), called this measure a “stall tactic.” In a statement, Martin said, “Closing the courts for a few months will not relieve the massive debt that tens of thousands of renters face, or provide any financial relief to the hundreds of housing providers who have provided safe, clean homes to millions of New Yorkers during the COVID-19 emergency.” Martin continued, “No renter facing financial hardship should be evicted during a pandemic, but the cost of providing free housing cannot be fully borne by property owners . . . If renters interpret this bill as a justification to not pay rent the damage to our economy and local budgets will be immense.”
And, to an extent, Cea Weaver, from Housing Justice for All (a statewide coalition representing low-income tenants) seemingly concurs with Martin. She called the new law a “temporary solution,” and added that, “In order to prevent massive economic disaster, our legislature must clear the back rent owed by New Yorkers and create a hardship fund for small landlords struggling to keep their buildings safe and afloat.” Weaver noted that this measure was “just one component of the broader housing and rent relief package that the state legislature must enact in early 2021. Our legislative leaders must address the looming rent debt crisis, as many unemployed tenants owe thousands in back rent and have no way to pay it. Eliminating rent debt is crucial to ensuring a real recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. With a Democratic supermajority in place in both houses, the State Legislature must forgive all back rent accrued during the pandemic, and pass permanent Good Cause Eviction protections.”
When will our political leaders finally tire of kicking the can down the road, and are ready to take action, maybe, just maybe, they’ll get to implementing longer-term, and larger-scale corrective measures.