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New York passed one of the nation’s most comprehensive eviction moratorium bills during the Legislature’s special year-end session.
Here’s what the new Eviction Moratorium means
Nearly all eviction and foreclosure proceedings in New York are suspended until Feb. 26, with the potential for most to stay on hold until May 1 if the tenant fills out a form indicating they’ve experienced financial hardship or face health risks because of the pandemic. That means almost all pending and ongoing cases are paused, and pretty much no new cases can be started for now. The only exceptions are for some cases, known as nuisance holdovers, in which a landlord convinces the judge that the tenant is a hazard to other residents.
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One really important action step
Eviction moratorium protection is not automatic.
You need to fill out a form from the courts called a hardship declaration and get it to your landlord or an agent of your landlord to prevent them from evicting you — or to Housing Court in your borough if you already have a pending case.
You can also present the form directly to a marshal if you already have a warrant for eviction issued against you.
If you have a pending case, the state Office of Court Administration will send you a copy of the declaration. But if you’d rather not wait, you can fill it out now.
An important note
The bill also requires that landlords attach a blank copy of the hardship declaration form when they demand rent or file a petition for eviction.
If your landlord doesn’t provide you a copy of the declaration, keep record of exactly what documents you receive, how you receive them and when you receive them, Meyers said. This evidence could help your case later, he added.
Under this new moratorium, the courts assume that tenants are telling the truth on this declaration form. (Keep in mind that a tenant signs the form under “penalty of law,” which means there can be legal consequences for lying.) Instead of the burden being on the tenant to prove in court that they qualify for protection, the burden is now on the landlord to show the court that a tenant does not qualify.
The definition of hardship is broader than past executive orders — and broader than the requirements for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moratorium that expires Jan. 31. The eligibility criteria go beyond lost income and account for challenges like added childcare expenses.
Some tips: Keep a copy of the form that you file. And if you’re not sure if you can truthfully fill out and sign the form, it might be a good idea to talk to a tenant attorney. You can call 311 to ask for the tenant helpline.
If you’re a homeowner or small landlord
The new law also puts residential foreclosure proceedings on hold and prevents new ones from being filed until Feb. 26, with the potential to put them off until May 1 if the owner fills out a hardship declaration form. The measure covers both mortgage and tax foreclosures, as well as tax lien sales for past tax debt. The only exception is for vacant or abandoned property.
The protection for homeowners encompasses a wide variety of hardships, including if a tenant has lost income and can’t pay rent.
To qualify for these protections, you can fill out the hardship declaration form here in English or Spanish.
- For mortgage foreclosure prevention, you send the form directly to your servicer.
- We’ll let you know when we know more about the process for tax foreclosure and lien sale prevention in NYC.
The bill also protects property owners from negative credit reporting if they have fallen behind on mortgage payments.
Here’s what the new Eviction Moratorium doesn’t do
The bill doesn’t cancel rent, and it doesn’t offer mortgage forbearance, rent relief or any other assistance to help owners with expenses. Tenants and owners are still responsible for their payments and debt. Everything is just on pause.
What happens next?
In a lot of ways, the new law is buying time for the state and federal government to figure out what to do about New York’s massive and growing estimated $3.4 billion rent debt.
It’s unclear what additional action — if any — will be taken in the new year, but here are some points to keep in mind:
- New York State has $1.3 billion of federal money earmarked for rent assistance
- The state Legislature will soon convene a new session where Democrats will have a potentially veto-proof “supermajority”
- A new federal administration is set to take office Jan. 20
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