Housing Programs & Services

Eviction Moratoriums: Under COVID-19

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Summary

In March 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, warrants of evictions were suspended by the Chief Administrative Judge of the NYS Unified Court System for residential tenants in New York State. Since then, additional federal, gubernatorial, and judicial orders have been put in place, some of which have already expired or have been invalidated by the courts.

In this section, you will find the presently available protections against evictions to eligible residential tenants. However, while these protections may prevent some evictions, some tenants may not be covered by the protections. Additionally, all tenants continue to be responsible for rent; there have been no rent suspensions, rent cancellations, rent forgiveness, or rent freezes.

NYC tenants without legal representation who receive notices for the court should call 311 and ask to be connected to the Tenant Helpline, where they may be able to access free legal representation.

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Resumption of Housing Court Cases and Evictions in NYC

Advocacy Tip

Tenants who are being sued in housing court should consult with an attorney to determine if there are any eviction protections that will prevent an eviction, see below, Eviction Moratoriums, Protections Against Residential Evictions.

NYC tenants without legal representation who receive notices from the court should call 311 and/or Housing Court Answers at 212-962-4795, Monday – Friday, 9am-5pm. When calling 311, tenants should ask to be connected to the Tenant Helpline, where they may be able to access free legal representation. Housing Court Answers is a valuable resource for questions about answering court notices and the current housing court processes.

Tenants with legal representation should contact their attorneys.

For additional tenant resources, see below, Additional Resources, Tenant Resources.

NYS UNIFIED COURT SYSTEM’S ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER AND/OR MEMORANDA

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chief Administrative Judge of the NYS Unified Court System has issued memos and administrative orders outlining how NYS Courts should proceed with housing court cases and evictions according to state and federal laws and regulations.

An administrative order issued on January 16, 2022 by Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks outlines how housing court cases and evictions should proceed as a result of the expiration of the protections in the NYS COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act (CEEFPA). (To learn more about CEEFPA, see below, Eviction Moratoriums: Under COVID-19, Protections Against Residential Evictions, NYS COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act.)

The following directives are in effect in NYS courts:

  • All residential cases (nonpayment and holdovers) can proceed their normal housing court course.
  • If an eviction was authorized by the courts between March 16, 2020 – September 2, 2021 but was not performed, the case must be brought back to court and the tenant must be notified.
    • This will ensure that all laws and procedures were followed at the time the eviction was authorized.
    • Additionally, the courts will determine if there any eviction protections that can pause the case. To learn about which eviction protections may be available, see below, Eviction Moratoriums: Under COVID-19, Protections Against Residential Evictions.
  • NYS courts cannot issue default judgments allowing a tenant eviction without the landlord submitting a motion to the court and the tenant will be notified. (A default judgment is a judge’s order that determines a tenant can be evicted because the tenant failed to answer a petition or missed their court date.)
    • That is, a case must come before a judge, who will look at the circumstances of the case and will determine if a default judgment can be granted.
Note

In NYC, when a tenant shows up to their court case and they do not have legal representation, before the case can move forward, the case should be put on the court’s calendar to be assigned an attorney. Once an attorney has been assigned to the tenant, the case will be scheduled on a judge’s calendar.

Protections Against Residential Evictions

Introduction

There have been many moratoriums and protections set in place by the various levels of government since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of which have expired or invalidated by the courts.

Note

Note 1: The moratoriums and protections against residential evictions may overlap. As such, they are subject to judicial interpretation in landlord-tenant housing court cases. If the protections have been raised as defenses, each housing court judge will determine on a case-by-case basis if a tenant should not be evicted.

Note 2: While these protections may prevent tenant evictions, tenants continue to be responsible for rent. There are no rent suspensions, rent cancellations, rent forgiveness, or rent freezes. For more information, see below, Rent Relief.

Advocacy Tip

Tenants who are being sued in housing court should consult with an attorney to determine if any of the following protections will prevent an eviction. Furthermore, to prevent evictions, tenants must assert the following protections as defenses in their court cases, which may be difficult without legal representation in housing court.


NYC tenants without legal representation who receive notices from the court should call 311 and/or Housing Court Answers at 212-962-4795, Monday – Friday, 9am-5pm. When calling 311, tenants should ask to be connected to the Tenant Helpline, where they may be able to access free legal representation. Housing Court Answers is a valuable resource for questions about answering court notices and the current housing court processes.

Tenants with legal representation should contact their attorneys.

For additional tenant resources, see below, Additional Resources, Tenant Resources.

NYS EMERGENCY RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (ERAP)

New York State’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) provides eligible NYS renters with up to 12 months of rental arrears assistance, up to three months of prospective rental assistance, and up to 12 months of utility arrears assistance if eligible for rental arrears assistance. NYS renters with incomes at or below 120% Area Median Income may be eligible for ERAP. While there are additional eligibility criteria, applicants do not have to meet an immigration requirement or have a Social Security number. (To learn more about ERAP’s additional eligibility criteria, see below, Rent Relief: Under COVID-19, NYS Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP).)

In addition to financial assistance, ERAP offers the following tenant protections against evictions:

  • Once an application is submitted, renters remain protected from eviction and their housing court case is paused while the household awaits an eligibility determination from the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA).
  • If a household is determined eligible and the landlord accepts payment:
    • The tenant’s rental obligations are paid in full for the period covered by the ERAP payment;
    • Late fees due on any rental arrears covered by the ERAP payment are waived;
    • There will be no increase in the monthly rent for the months for which rental assistance is received and for one year from receipt of the ERAP payment; and
    • For one year from receipt of the ERAP payment, the household cannot be evicted because rent was not paid during the COVID-19 pandemic or because the lease expired (holdover).
      • However, the holdover protection does not apply if the property has four or fewer units and the property owner or owner’s immediate family intend to immediately occupy the unit for use as a primary residence.
  • If a tenant is determined eligible for ERAP and the landlord does not cooperate to accept ERAP payment:
    • The tenant is still protected from eviction for one year from date of ERAP approval; and,
    • The rental arrears debt for the period covered by ERAP are absolved.
Advocacy Tip

All applications for ERAP are being accepted online only at https://nysrenthelp.otda.ny.gov/en/.


In NYC, the NYC Human Resources Administration (HRA) has partnered with community-based organizations that can help households apply for ERAP. Click here for a listing of organizations across the five boroughs.


For community-based organizations outside of NYC, click here.

NYS TENANT SAFE HARBOR ACT

Note

As of September 2, 2021, the NYS Tenant Safe Harbor Act provides eviction protection to tenants who are taken to court for rent owed during the “COVID-19 covered period,” defined as March 7, 2020 – January 15, 2022, and who experienced a financial hardship.

The NYS Tenant Safe Harbor Act (the Act) protects NYS residential tenants who have experienced a financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic from eviction due to nonpayment of rent. When originally established, the Act was to cover unpaid rent that accrued between March 7th and until all COVID-related restrictions on nonessential gatherings and businesses were lifted in the tenant’s county.

However, on September 2, 2021, Governor Kathy Hochul extended the covered period of the Act to January 15, 2022, or the end of the NYS eviction moratorium under NYS COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act (CEEFPA). (To learn more about CEEFPA, see below, Eviction Moratoriums: Under COVID-19, Protections Against Residential Evictions, NYS COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act.)

As a result, tenants may be able to use their COVID financial hardship as a defense against eviction if they are taken to court for rent that is owed for any period between March 7, 2020 – January 15, 2022.

Under the Act, a housing court judge cannot authorize an eviction due to nonpayment of rent for tenants who have not been able to pay rent because of COVID-19. However, a judge can award money judgments against tenants to landlords. (A money judgement gives the landlord the right to collect rent arrears from the tenant.)

For the Tenant Safe Harbor Act text, click here.

Note

There may be relief available to landlords of properties where tenants have not been paying rent. As a result of the pandemic, there are federal foreclosure moratoriums and NYS foreclosure moratoriums for commercial properties in place. Additionally, homeowners (including landlords and property owners) may be able to access mortgage forbearance through their financial institutions. For more information on the foreclosure moratoriums and mortgage forbearance, see below, Mortgage & Foreclosure Relief.

NYS COVID-19 EMERGENCY EVICTION AND FORECLOSURE PREVENTION ACT (CEEFPA) (INCLUDING THE SEPTEMBER 2021 LEGISLATION)

Note

The eviction protections afforded under CEEFPA are no longer available. The NYS eviction moratorium expired January 15, 2022. However, NYS residential tenants may have eviction protections under:

• NYS Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), and

• NYS Tenant Safe Harbor Act.


To learn about protections under NYS ERAP, see above, Eviction Moratoriums: Under COVID-19, Protections Against Residential Evictions, NYS Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP).


To learn about protections under the NYS Tenant Safe Harbor Act, see above, Eviction Moratoriums: Under COVID-19, Protections Against Residential Evictions, NYS Tenant Safe Harbor Act.


The information that follows pertains to CEEFPA prior to its expiration on January 15, 2022.

Tenants were protected from evictions in both nonpayment and holdover cases until January 15, 2022, if they submitted a hardship declaration to their landlord or in court (if a case is pending). To access the hardship declaration form in English and other languages, visit https://www.nycourts.gov/COURTS/nyc/civil/CORONA/covid-eefpa.shtml

Advocacy Tip

Tenants could submit the completed hardship forms via email to their county’s housing court. E-mail addresses of the five NYC housing courts can be found at https://www.nycourts.gov/eefpa/


Alternatively, tenants can use an online tool created by Right to Counsel NYC Coalition, Housing Justice for All, and JustFix.nyc. This online tool helps tenants submit the hardship declaration form in an accessible way. Tenants can access the tool by visiting https://www.evictionfreeny.org/en. With this tool, tenants can:

• Fill out their hardship declaration form online in an easy-to-use format.

• Automatically fill in their landlord’s information based on the address they provide (only for tenants who live in NYC).

• Send the form by email to the courts and their landlord.

• Send the form by USPS Certified Mail to their landlord (for free).

• Receive a confirmation email indicating to whom/where the form was sent (i.e. landlord and/or courts) along with USPS tracking information.

• Download a PDF of their completed form along with a cover page indicating when the form was generated that they can keep for their records.

The hardship declaration must be submitted by the tenant of record or person who is responsible for paying rent. In signing and submitting the declaration, the tenant is certifying that the household is eligible for protection from eviction for reason 1 or reason 2, or both:

  • Reason 1
    • They are experiencing financial hardship and unable to pay rent in full or move due to one or more of the following:
      • Significant loss of income during the COVID-19 pandemic
      • Increase in out-of-pocket expenses related to essential work or health impact during the COVID-19 pandemic.
      • Responsibilities for the care of children, elderly, disabled, or sick family member during COVID-19 pandemic have negatively affected the ability of the household to be employed or earn income or resulted in higher out-of-pocket expenses.
      • Securing alternative housing or moving expenses would be a hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic.
      • Other circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic have negatively affected the ability of the household to be employed or earn income or reduced household income or resulted in higher out-of-pocket expenses.
      • Additionally, any government assistance received since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic does not make up for the loss of income or increased expenses. (Government assistance can include unemployment insurance, pandemic unemployment assistance, disability insurance, paid family leave, and other government assistance.)
  • Reason 2
    • Vacating the premises and moving to new permanent housing would pose a health risk because the tenant or other household members would have an increased risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 due to age (65 years old or older), disability, or underlying medical condition.

Once a tenant submitted a hardship declaration, their landlord was able to challenge a tenant’s hardship. The landlord could request a hearing in court to determine whether a hardship existed or not. If the court determined that a hardship existed, the housing court case was suspended until January 15, 2022. If the court determined that a hardship did not exist, the housing court case was not suspended and could move forward its normal course in housing court.

The protections under this Act did not apply to tenants who are creating a safety health hazard or nuisance behavior for other tenants or who do not submit a hardship declaration. Additionally, tenants who filed hardship declarations may not be protected from eviction if a judge determined that they violated their lease by intentionally causing significant property damage or by creating a nuisance to other tenants in the building.

For the original CEEFPA text, click here.

For the legislation signed on September 2, 2021, click here.