Just before Ida wreaked havoc on homes across New York City, the state Legislature passed an important new law for tenants, landlords and homeowners that pushes New York’s eviction moratorium until Jan. 15.
You may remember that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down New York’s eviction moratorium, limiting protections, and then the moratorium expired at the end of August.
But lawmakers in Albany, with the support of Gov. Kathy Hochul, voted earlier this month to amend New York’s eviction moratorium to fit the Supreme Court’s requirements and extend it until the new year.
“I’m glad that the governor took this as a priority and that the Legislature leapt into action,” said Cea Weaver, an organizer with the statewide tenant movement Housing Justice for All.
What does this mean for tenants?
Tenants still need to fill out a hardship declaration to be eligible for protection from eviction until the new year — the old forms still count — but now landlords have the option to push back in court. Then, it’s up to a judge to decide whether you are eligible for protection.
“The presumption of eligibility [for tenants] is still there,” said Weaver. “The declaration form is still good, you don’t need to fill out a new one.”
If your landlord chooses to challenge your hardship claim, you’ll have a court hearing where you’ll need to show proof that you’ve experienced financial difficulties during the pandemic.
You’ll get a notice from both your landlord and the court letting you know that your landlord doesn’t think you’ve endured financial woes.
You’ll get a court date. Then, a judge will make a determination.
If you got a notice from a marshall about an eviction before Sept. 2, you’ll need to have another date with the court before that moves forward.
Expert tip: When you sign the hardship declaration, it’s a good idea to gather the documents you have that show in court if your landlord tries to challenge your claim, said Justin La Mort, a tenant attorney at Mobilization for Justice. Examples include: pay stubs, record of unemployment, hospital bills, etc.
Don’t forget: Tenants whose income qualifies can get free legal representation in Housing Court through the city’s Right to Counsel program. To qualify, your income must be under 200% of the federal poverty line, which is $43,920 for a family of three. If that’s your situation, be sure to talk with a lawyer.
Important to know: The other way you can protect yourself from eviction is by applying for the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). You can learn more about how to apply here, and you can find the application here. If you’ve applied, Housing Court judges will be able to see that.
Remember: The eviction moratorium does not absolve your rent debt, it just prevents your landlord from kicking you out of your home for the time being. If you owe rent from the past year and a half, you can apply for ERAP. If you qualify, the state could pay your landlord your total rent debt for up to 12 months, plus an additional three months of future rent, and then your landlord can’t evict you for another year.
What about landlords?
You now have some added protections in court, but they require you to take action.
If your tenant filled out a hardship declaration form and you believe they did not experience a hardship, then you can submit a form to both the tenant and the court when you file a petition for eviction, according to an administrative order by Judge Lawrence Marks.
If you want to challenge a tenant’s hardship declaration from an eviction case that is already underway, you can file a motion to the court and notify your tenant. A hearing will then be scheduled.
If a judge finds that the tenant’s hardship is not valid, the eviction case can proceed. If the judge finds that the hardship holds up, the court will require the tenant to apply for ERAP within two weeks, according to the court’s latest administrative order.
The landlords’ group Community Housing Improvement Program, or CHIP, is encouraging its members to focus more on encouraging their tenants to apply for rent relief rather than spending time and money on an eviction case.
“We’re not telling members to rush to challenge hardship declarations,” said Michael Johnson, a spokesperson for CHIP. “We’re focusing almost all of our attention on ERAP.”
Landlords can apply for ERAP here.
Another landlords’ group, the Rent Stabilization Association, has filed a motion further challenging the moratorium, saying the new law doesn’t go far enough to protect landlords.
“With the exception of superficial changes, state lawmakers simply replaced a challenged law with a new law whose provisions are virtually identical to the previous legislation,” RSA President Joseph Strasburg said in a statement.
One more thing: Landlords also have the option to file a motion with the court to keep an eviction case moving if they can show that the tenant is consistently behaving in a way that is a hazard or danger to the building owner or other tenants.
What’s in this for homeowners?
In order to stay protected from mortgage or tax foreclosure until January, homeowners also need to fill out hardship declarations.
You can find the mortgage hardship declaration form here. And if you want help negotiating with your mortgage servicer, you can call the city’s homeowner helpline at 855-HOME-456.
Big news if you’re behind on property taxes: New York City is planning on holding a tax lien sale in 2021, even with the moratorium in place.
Homeowners can fill out a hardship declaration form from the city’s Department of Finance to exempt themselves from the tax lien sale list. If you fill out the DOF form saying that you’ve experienced financial difficulty during the pandemic, you won’t have liens sold on your house.
“The goal of the process is to have people pay, enter into payment plans or to let us know that they have a COVID-hardship and to sell as few liens as possible,” according to a spokesperson from the DOF.
You can find the latest list of properties on the tax lien sale list, as well as resources from DOF about how to remove yourself from the list here.
Other options for homeowners
ERAP: If you are a homeowner with tenants, you can apply for rent relief and to help your tenant apply to get back a year’s worth of rent arrears. Apply here.
Kevin Wolfe, senior government affairs manager at the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, said: “It is in the best interest of the homeowner landlord and all landlords to cooperate and apply for that relief. They don’t gain anything by not participating.”
In addition to ERAP, more help is on the way for homeowners from the state, but probably not until later this fall. You can read more about what the homeowner relief program is expected to include here.
One more thing: Watch out for scams!
Wolfe said that scams have been on the rise for homeowners, including people trying to charge owners a fee to apply for a forbearance, people charging money to help with Ida repairs and people offering to fastrack relief applications.
If you think someone is trying to scam you or are not sure, you can call the state’s homeowner helpline at 855-HOME-456.
“If something seems too good to be true, it probably is,” said Wolfe.
There will be an additional rent assistance program for landlords in special situations outside of what is already covered by ERAP. Lawmakers added $150 million to this new supplemental program as part of the moratorium extension, bringing its total up to $250 million of state dollars.
The cash will be for landlords whose tenants have moved out and can’t be contacted, for landlords whose tenants make more than the ERAP income threshold and for landlords with other special circumstances. We’ll let you know when we know more.
What to do in Ida’s wake
Was your home damaged by the storm? How has cleanup been going? Will you need repairs? What questions or concerns do you have now? We’re looking into the impacts of the storm on tenants, landlords and homeowners — and what resources are available to help. We want to hear from you. Email us at email@example.com to let us know what’s going on.
What else we’re reading:
- The Real Deal reported on rent relief checks going out in the wrong amounts.
- The Daily News wrote about the RSA trying to block New York’s newest eviction moratorium.
6sqft shared tips on how to get help for your home after Ida.