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Jan 12, 2021 | THE CITY

How New York's New Eviction Moratorium Works

This article about the new Eviction Moratorium in New York is part of a collaboration between Documented and The City. We will be joining forces to keep our audiences up to date on the latest regarding rent, as it’s an important subject to immigrant communities. Sign up here to get updates sent via email or text from The City.

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.

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.

You can find the form here in English and Spanish. Versions in seven languages are expected to be available here by Jan 11.

Also Read: Landlords Are Threatening Renters, Despite the Eviction Moratoriums

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. 

Also Read: How the FBI Coerced This Muslim Immigrant Into Working as an Informant

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. 

Tenant rights organizers rally at City Hall before a vote on the Right to Counsel bill, Feb. 24, 2020.
 Ben Fractenberg / THE CITY

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

Also Read: Extended Rent Relief for New York Tenants and Immigrants

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