Mayor de Blasio today called for a rent freeze on Friday for 2.3 million tenants in nearly 1 million rent-stabilized units across the City amid the COVID-19 epidemic. The City will work with the State to suspend the Rent Guidelines Board process for the upcoming year, which will maintain all regulated rents at this year’s level and provide a lifeline to tenants in need.
“We are in the midst of a crisis only comparable to the Great Depression,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The people of our city are struggling and a rent freeze is the lifeline so many will need this year to stay above water.”
The Governor recently announced a 90-day state moratorium on evictions for residential and commercial tenants, which is expected to go into effect Sunday evening. Rents are due Wednesday April 1st. The City has already declared a temporary moratorium on residential evictions. What does that mean? And in a city where renters make up nearly two-thirds of the population, what happens if you can’t make rent? And what rights do you have as a tenant?
Do you still have to pay rent? Yes as of right now; the eviction moratorium does not cancel rent payments, and if you can, you should still pay your rent. If you can’t make rent, you might want to let your landlord know that you recently suffered a loss of income and see if an arrangement can be reached; when you find a new source of income, you may be able to negotiate a repayment plan with your landlord for missed payments.
Most decisions affecting rental housing in New York City are decided in Albany, still this Tuesday, Brooklyn and Manhattan Borough Presidents Eric Adams and Gale Brewer, joined City Council Member Keith Powers and New York City Council Housing and Buildings Chair Robert Cornegy Jr. to introduce their plan to help New Yorkers cover rent payments for the month of April.
Called the Renter’s Choice plan, a proposal to apply renters' cash security deposits toward next month's rent, the new plan would require NYC landlords to offer every renter the option of applying their cash security deposit directly towards next month’s rent, unlocking around $8 billion of savings tied up in cash security deposits.
This would mean New York City renters out-of-work because of the new Coronavirus could receive a lifeline on April's rent by telling landlords to give all renters the option of applying their deposits toward April's rent.
They said it will offer immediate relief for renters at risk of missing a payment. Brewer said the plan has the potential to help at least 2.5 million renters in the city. It would need state approval and not cover rent controlled apartment, where tenants didn't put down deposits.
The officials hope to get Mayor Bill de Blasio's backing and enact the bill before April 1st.
Can a landlord still file a nonpayment or eviction case? Eviction proceedings are paused for the time being. Gov. Cuomo’s executive order has blocked new cases until at least April 19. This means that come mid-April, New York landlords will have the option to file new nonpayment and eviction cases against tenants, but those new cases will be temporarily adjourned.
Even if a landlord tries to get the ball rolling by filing a new case in April, tenants are currently not at risk of a default judgement if they don’t respond in court. It bares repeating that the courts are closed for nonessential functions and that tenants cannot be evicted with the moratorium in place until at least June 20.
On March 13, the city’s Department of Investigations notified all marshals that eviction proceedings are suspended, and that directive has since been extended indefinitely. If a marshal tries to execute an eviction warrant, do not comply, and report the activity by calling DOI’s Bureau of City Marshals at (212) 825-5953.
Following a push from housing advocates, the state has implemented a 90-day moratorium on evictions due to the pandemic earlier this week. And Housing Justice for All, a coalition of tenants’ rights advocates, has called for a statewide rent freeze. That proposal led to a bill from State Sen. Michael Gianaris that would suspend rent payments for 90 days for residential tenants and small businesses facing financial hardships
Senate Bill S8125A would suspend all rent payments for certain residential tenants and small business commercial tenants if such tenant has lost employment or was forced to close their place of business and certain mortgage payments for landlords of such tenants in the state for ninety days following the effective date of this act in response to the outbreak of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Contact these organizations for Free Housing-related Legal Advice. (Phone calls only.)
- Housing Conservation Coordinators at (212) 541-5996, Monday evenings, 7-9pm
- Take Root Justice Housing Hotline at (646) 459-3022
- Goddard Law Project at (212) 799-9638, x0
- PALANTE Harlem, Inc. at (212) 491-2541 -- English & Spanish spoken
- Legal Services NYC at (917) 661-4509 -- serves residents city-wide in several languages
If you are facing eviction or are being threatened with being evicted:
• Know that since March 16, 2020, all eviction proceedings in New York City are suspended indefinitely. For more information, please visit the NYC Department of Investigation (DOI).
• Anyone with knowledge of City marshals attempting to execute on warrants of eviction can report this activity by calling DOI’s Bureau of City Marshals at (212) 825-5953.
• New York City Housing Court are now only open for essential cases permitted by the court, such as landlord lockouts, serious housing code violations, and requests for emergency repairs orders. For more information, please visit www.nycourts.gov or call (833) 503-0447 (toll-free).
• Your landlord cannot evict you, kick you out, or ask you to leave your apartment for having COVID-19.
• Your landlord cannot evict you, kick you out, or ask you to leave your apartment for being under home-quarantine.
• Being under isolation or quarantine in a hospital or other facility does not change your tenancy – your apartment remains your primary residence.
• You will still need to pay rent during quarantine or any time in a medical facility, as is the case for any illness.
• Your landlord cannot discriminate against you, kick you out, or ask you to leave your apartment because of fears and stigma around COVID-19, including discrimination or harassment on the basis of actual or perceived race, national origin, disability, or other protected classes. If you are facing discrimination and harassment by your landlord, please visit the NYC Commission on Human Rights and fill out the form to report discrimination.
More good news:
Con Edison will not shut off electric, natural gas or steam service due to payment difficulties resulting from the health crisis. Learn more here.
Still have questions? Here are the organizations to reach out to:
The agencies tasked with oversight of NYC’s rental apartments are the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the state’s Division of Homes and Community Renewal (DHCR). Each one has its own guide to tenants’ rights during the coronavirus pandemic: HPD, HCR.
Legal Aid Society provides legal assistance to tenants embroiled in fights in Housing Court, but who cannot afford representation. Housing Court Answers also has a hotline for questions during this time.
Housing Justice For All is the advocacy group working on current calls to implement a rent, mortgage, and utility suspension for the duration of the pandemic.
If you have questions related to paying rent during quarantine or hospitalization due to COVID-19, you can contact the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants by filling out the Contact form.