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Update: Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he had extended the state’s eviction moratorium through August, but would only apply to tenants unable to pay rent due to Covid-19, or who qualify for unemployment. We are working to verify the legal implications.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, members of our WhatsApp community have regularly voiced concerns of getting evicted for not being able to pay rent due to unemployment. They sent us questions about their housing rights during this crisis and what the City government has done to protect renters. We posed these questions to Cea Weaver, coordinator of the campaign ‘Housing Justice for All’. Here are her responses:
1. Can I be kicked out of my rented apartment if I have no money to pay?
No. There is an eviction moratorium in New York State for April and May. The courts are closed, landlords cannot sue you and you cannot be evicted for any reason as long as the moratorium lasts.
2. What if I can’t pay my rent this month?
You are not alone. Millions of people can’t pay rent right now. The moratorium buys you time because the landlord can’t sue you or evict you. It doesn’t mean you won’t be obligated to pay rent later, but you don’t have to worry about court or an eviction right now.
3. Does this mean that I no longer have to pay April?
Well, no. You still technically have the obligation to pay. Once the moratorium ends, your landlord can take you to court for rent that you owe.
4. What happens if the landlord tries to kick me out? What should I do?
Unfortunately, the moratorium doesn’t mean that landlords can’t harass you, ask you for rent, or tell you they think you’re late. Landlords often send threatening rent demands that seem like court papers, telling you you have 14 days to pay or leave the apartment. Those are not court papers. A notice from your landlord isn’t an eviction, it’s a threat. Only a judge can evict you. Remember, because of the moratorium, you cannot be taken to court or evicted during this time.
The best thing to do if your landlord is threatening you is to learn about your rights as a tenant: https://bit.ly/DerechosArriendo
5. Can I call the police if the landlord tries to kick me out?
Yes but police often do the work of the landlord and not the tenant (regardless of what the law says.) So folks should be warned that that is a possibility.
If the police don’t help and force you to leave, you have been illegally locked out. You may start a proceeding in the Housing Court to be “restored to possession,” which means put back in the apartment. Housing Court is still open for these proceedings (not for landlord initiated proceedings, however.)
6. I rent a room, not a whole place. Can I still be kicked out?
If you rent a room, you still have rights. Only a judge can evict you.
7. Is there any help I can get to cover my rent?
It depends on your situation. You should call Housing Court Answers at 212-962-4795.
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