Landlord – Tenant Relations during Covid-19
Since March 2015, Hedgeman Law has taken calls from Landlords and Tenants, Residential and Commercial regarding their rights under NYS and Federal Covid19 directives. Below is a summary of the law to date through the most recent moratorium of May 1, 2021.
The federal moratorium that ended at midnight on January 1, 2020 will immediately be extended to January 31, 2021. Any extensions beyond that date will depend on actions taken by the Biden Administration and what they’re able to work out with Congress after President-elect Biden’s inauguration on January 20. As with past moratoriums, the one-month extension protects tenants from eviction for nonpayment of rent only. If you owe back rent, nothing in this or past legislation forgives your debts, it just protects you from receiving an eviction notice.
New York State
The New York State Legislature has approved a bill that prevents residential evictions, foreclosure proceedings, credit discrimination and negative credit reporting related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the legislation late Monday, which places a moratorium on coronavirus-related residential evictions and foreclosure proceedings until May. The legislation also extends the Senior Citizens’ Homeowner Exemption and Disabled Homeowner Exemption from 2020 to 2021. Officials say the legislation helps tenants facing eviction and mortgagors facing foreclosure proceedings due to the pandemic.
The legislation places a moratorium on residential evictions until May 1, 2021 for tenants who have endured coronavirus-related hardship. Tenants must submit a hardship declaration or a document explaining the source of the hardship in order to prevent evictions. Landlords may still evict tenants that are creating safety or health hazards for other tenants, and those tenants who do not submit hardship declarations. There are options available to tenants who can’t pay their rent as well as those in so-called “holdover evictions,” which occur after the expiration of a tenant’s lease. Many holdover evictions were still in process at the onset of the pandemic in New York, and have been proceeding as normal since the fall, even if some tenants have claimed financial hardship due to COVID-19. If a tenant was already involved in a pending eviction proceeding and files a declaration under the new New York law, their case would be stayed for at least 60 days. If an eviction warrant has yet to be issued, the case will be stayed until at least May 1.
The law allows for the eviction of tenants who violate their lease by persistently and unreasonably engaging in behavior that substantially infringes on the use and enjoyment of other tenants or occupants or causes a substantial safety hazard to others. This could include property damage inside or outside of the rental unit, even if it doesn’t directly impact another tenant or neighbor.
Residential Foreclosure Proceedings
The COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act also provides protections against foreclosure and tax lien sales to any residential property owner that owns 10 or fewer dwelling units, including their own primary residence. Property owners will be able to access foreclosure and tax lien sale protection by filing a Standardized Hardship Declaration Form with their mortgage lender, local assessor, or with a court, similar to that created by the eviction protection proposal. The owner will declare, under penalty of perjury, a financial hardship that prevents them from paying their mortgage or property taxes because of lost income, including reduction in rent collections; increased expenses; or the inability to obtain meaningful employment. Landlords with more than ten total units are excluded from these protections. The bill also protects a property owner from credit discrimination if the owner has fallen behind on mortgage payments on the property at which they reside or because they have received a stay of mortgage foreclosure, tax foreclosure, or tax lien sales on the property. Homeowners will use the same Hardship Declaration to avoid credit discrimination based on their mortgage arrears on the property. However, there are penalties for tenants and landlords misusing the system. Tenants and landlords fill out the financial hardship declaration forms under penalty of perjury, which could be punishable as a Class A misdemeanor. This carries up to a year of jail time, three years probation, and/or a fine.