What We Know About Evictions In New York State

COVID-19 (Coronavirus Updates)

Effective immediately, courts in New York State may begin to hear new eviction cases.  If you are a tenant who has lost income, you may have a defense to your eviction case and your landlord may not be able to evict you.

If you have been served with eviction court papers, you may call Neighborhood Legal Services at 716 847-0650 for assistance.

If you need help paying your rent and you live in Erie County, call 211.

 

 

The following information is current as of September 29, 2020.

Courts in New York State are NOT hearing new eviction cases, except for emergencies.  If you have not been able to pay your rent because of COVID, your landlord should not be able to evict you for the back rent.  Your landlord may still be able to evict you for lease violations. If you get court papers, call Neighborhood Legal Services immediately at (716) 847-0650.

NEW: The Governor signed an Executive Order on September 29, 2020 that expands the Tenant Safe Harbor Act (more information below). If a tenant was served with a warrant of eviction pre-COVID, but has not been put out yet, the tenant can raise a financial hardship defense under the Act.

 

CDC Eviction Moratorium:

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a temporary, Federal moratorium (ban) on residential evictions. This ban is effective from September 4, 2020 through December 31, 2020.

  • The federal moratorium does NOT say that tenants do not have to pay rent. It also does not prevent landlords from charging late fees. Tenants should pay their rent if they can.
  • If a tenant is causing a health or safety threat where they live, the ban does not protect the tenant.
  • Landlords are not allowed to evict any “covered person” where the federal ban applies.
  • “Covered person” includes any tenant, lessee, or resident who gives the required written statement (“declaration”) to their landlord or the person(s) with a legal right to bring an eviction.
  • The declaration is a written statement that the tenant and all affected household members meet these 5 requirements:
  1. The tenant has tried to get all available government assistance for rent;
  2. The tenant meets the following income requirements:
    1. The tenant doesn’t expect to earn $99,000.00 or more in 2020 (or $198,000.00 if the tenant is filing their taxes jointly); or
    2. The tenant and their family did not have to report any income to the IRS in 2019. In other words, the tenant did not pay federal income tax last year; or
    3. The tenant received a stimulus check under the federal CARES Act.
  3. The tenant and their family can’t pay the full rent because of:
    1. A substantial loss in income because their hours at work were cut or because they lost their job; or
    2. An extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expense.
  4. The tenant has made best efforts to try to make some payment to the landlord. This is based on what the tenant can afford; and
  5. If the tenant and their family are evicted, there would be a likelihood that they would have to live with family or friends, or be homeless.

 

Evictions in New York State:

  • Eviction cases started before March 17, 2020 may be called back to court. This means that if you had a court case scheduled before March 17, you may get a letter from the court telling you about your new court date.
  • Any cases that were started before March 17th have to have a status conference. This includes cases where the landlord got a warrant of eviction, but the tenant was not put out.
    • At the conference, the court and parties will discuss COVID-19 concerns as well as whether the tenant is protected under the New York Tenant Safe Harbor Act (see below).
    • If you were served with a warrant of eviction before COVID, you will have another court date before you are put out.
  • No residential eviction can take place before October 1, 2020 at earliest, unless the judge finds that a tenant is causing a health or safety threat at their residence.
    • If you were facing an eviction before March 17, 2020 and later suffered financial hardship due to COVID-19, you may be able to use this as a defense to get more time to move.
    • If you were facing an eviction before March 17, 2020 and did not suffer financial hardship due to COVID-19, the court must still hold a status conference before you can be put out. If you do not attend the status conference, you could be put out as early as October 1, 2020.

 

 New York’s Tenant Safe Harbor Act:

  • The Tenant Safe Harbor Act (TSHA) allows courts to give landlords a money judgment for rent that came due during COVID-19, but prevents a landlord from getting a warrant of eviction if the tenant has a defense under the Act.
    • The “covered period” begins March 7th and goes on until at least January 1, 2021.
    • Tenants may raise a financial hardship as a defense, and the court will examine several factors, such as the tenant’s income prior to the covered period; the tenant’s current income; the tenant’s liquid assets (like cash on hand); and whether the tenant qualifies for or receives benefits like PA, TANF, SNAP, SSI, SSD, unemployment, and other Federal and state benefits.
    • If a tenant has a defense under the Tenant Safe Harbor Act, the landlord might get a money judgment against the tenant, but the tenant cannot be ordered to vacate the unit until the covered period ends (January 2, 2021 at earliest).
    • If a tenant has not suffered a financial hardship during the covered period, the TSHA likely does not apply, and the tenant could be put out as soon as October 1, 2020.

 

 

*New information continues to come in about how the eviction process is unfolding in New York State and in Buffalo. The guidance in this document is based on information from the CDC, the Attorney General, the Governor’s Office, and the NYS Office of Court Administration, and is current through September 29, 2020. For more information, go to https://ag.ny.gov/coronavirus#tenantrights.

New information is continuously shared with us about how the eviction process is unfolding in New York State and in Buffalo.  What follows below is a reflection of what has been communicated by the Attorney General, Governor’s Office, and the NYS Office of Court Administration through August 12, 2020.

 

NEW: Effective August 13, 2020:

  • Eviction matters commenced prior to March 17, 2020 may be resumed. This means if you had a court case scheduled prior to March 17, you may get a letter from the court notifying you of your new court date.
  • Prior to any further proceedings in residential evictions cases commenced prior to March 17, including cases where warrants of eviction have issued but not yet executed, the court must hold a status conference before further action occurs.
    • During this conference, the court and parties will discuss COVID-19 concerns as well as relief under the New York Tenant Safe Harbor Act (see below).
    • If you were served with a warrant of eviction, you will have another court date before the warrant executes (before you are put out).
  • No residential eviction can take place prior to October 1, 2020.

 

WHAT WE KNOW:

  • The Tenant Safe Harbor Act (TSHA), signed into law on June 30, provides that courts may not issue a warrant of eviction against a tenant, or a possession of judgment to a landlord, where a tenant or lawful occupant has suffered a COVID-19-related financial hardship and cannot pay the rent that accrues during the covered period.
    • The covered period begins March 7th and extends indefinitely.
    • Tenants may raise a financial hardship defense in eviction proceedings, and the court will examine several factors, including the tenant’s income prior to the covered period; the tenant’s current income; the tenant’s liquid assets; and the tenant’s eligibility for and receipt of benefits like PA, TANF, SNAP, SSI, SSD, unemployment, and other Federal and state benefits.
    • If a tenant has a defense under the TSHA, the landlord might get a money judgment against the tenant, but the tenant will not be ordered to vacate the unit.
  • The Federal CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act), provided for an eviction moratorium that ended on July 24th. This moratorium applied to Federally-subsidized tenancies and tenants who live in properties where the landlord has a federally-backed mortgage. Now that the timeframe has expired:

 

WHAT’S STILL DEVELOPING:

  • Court cases filed pre-COVID: I had a court case prior to these moratoriums. When will it be heard?
    • Cases filed pre-COVID may now proceed. You may receive a letter notifying you of your new court date.
    • Some courts may hold in-person hearings and other may schedule virtual hearings. This is a court-by-court decision.
    • Social distancing protocols may require some courts to hear fewer cases each day.
  • COVID defenses: Will tenants be able to raise COVID-19-related financial hardship defenses in eviction cases that do not involve nonpayment of rent?
    • The Tenant Safe Harbor Act covers eviction actions for nonpayment of rent but likely does not cover eviction actions for reasons other than nonpayment of rent (holdover evictions).
    • Tenants may raise COVID-19 defenses in a holdover proceeding, but there is no guarantee that the defenses will prevent eviction.

 

 For more information, go to https://ag.ny.gov/coronavirus#tenantrights.

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