New York Renters Cannot Be Evicted Until at Least October
Housing activists gathered in Crown heights to protest alleged tenant harassment and call on the state to cancel rent. | Scott Heins/Getty Images
New court guidance gives residential tenants a two month reprieve from eviction.
Seven days after a pause on evictions expired in New York, the state court system has extended a moratorium through October 1 for residential tenants, allowing thousands of renters at acute risk of eviction to breathe a momentary sigh of relief.
The new directive, issued by New York State Chief Administrative Judge Lawerence Marks, mandates that no existing or new residential eviction warrants can be executed until October at the earliest, and continues its suspension on proceedings in all new eviction cases brought by landlords after March 17.
The move marks a major win for renters and their advocates who for weeks have urged the state to expand pandemic-related tenant protections to keep tens of thousands of at-risk New Yorkers in their homes during the pandemic. Housing attorney Ellen Davidson said that she was pleasantly surprised that the court gave tenants a month and a half reprieve from evictions, stressing that the extra time will be a boon for state legislators as they work to figure out next steps and pass greater rent relief.
“It’s the first time since June 20 that we’ve had some certainty about evictions,” said Davidson, referring to when Governor Andrew Cuomo’s initial blanket moratorium on evictions expired. “This at least gives everyone an opportunity to take a breath and start doing some real planning on what to do about the hundreds and thousands of tenants who have lost income during this crisis and are facing eviction.”
Under Judge Marks’ order, eviction cases filed before March 17 cannot progress without the courts holding settlement meetings with judges “to address a range of subjects related to the case and COVID-19 concerns.” That includes those for which judgements and warrants to actually evict a tenant have already been issued. These meetings would also determine whether a tenant qualifies for relief under the Tenant Safe Harbor Act (which says a tenant cannot face eviction for unpaid rent accrued after March 7).
When the pause on these eviction proceedings eventually does expire, this new provision means City Marshalls won’t be able to immediately carry out evictions for the nearly 14,000 New Yorkers who have pending warrants and also lack legal representation. Instead, the landlord and tenant will have to return to court to revisit the case.
All told, trials for eviction cases filed before March 17 can begin to move forward — some 200,000 cases filed before the pandemic are pending in New York City housing court — with many of those proceedings being conducted remotely. Commercial evictions, meanwhile, are on pause until an earlier executive order signed by the governor expires on August 17; after that date, those cases can move forward unabated as well.
The court’s new guidance is the latest twist in a tortuously complex series of eviction moratoria issued in New York over the last five months. While Cuomo initially issued a blanket moratorium on evictions in mid-March, that directive has since been scaled back and reshaped by several executive orders.
Last week, the governor signed a new order that opened the door for the court system to continue its suspension on eviction proceedings by pausing statutory deadlines for civil litigation through at least September 5. But Judge Marks’ memo interpreting that order went a step further and extended the court’s pause on evictions weeks beyond that date.
Landlord lawyer Nativ Winiarsky called the Wednesday directive an “improper push by the judicial branch to take on a quasi-legislative role.” But if state lawmakers get their way and are able to pass a series of bills in the meantime, tenants could see their rents canceled for the duration of New York’s health emergency and evictions prohibited for a full year after the state lifts its final pandemic-related restrictions.
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