budget rent

Though an executive order by Governor Andrew Cuomo temporarily banned evictions in New York State, the moratorium expires on June 20. Tenants who are unable to prove that lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic prevented them from paying rent would be susceptible to evictions.

So many cash-strapped New York tenants are still expected to pay what could end up being months' worth of back rent once the moratorium expires.

Advocates raised troubling concerns about what eviction proceedings could mean for tenants unable to pay rent during the state-mandated stay-at-home order, which began in March and has only just begun its gradual end. While Cuomo has extended a less powerful moratorium until August, it is only for those who can prove financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic or qualify for unemployment.

Housing advocates united this week to announce the release of the evictors list and to call on New Yorkers to join their efforts to ask New York's elected officials meet six demands:

  1. Extend the universal eviction moratorium.
  2. Ensure the right to council in housing court.
  3. Slow the number of eviction cases held in housing court.
  4. Pass Good Cause Eviction legislation which would mandate landlords show "just cause" for not renewing leases.
  5. Hold accountable landlords who do not provide tenants adequate living conditions.
  6. Prioritize health, safety and accessibility of everyone involved in housing court

More than 50 New York State legislators urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to extend the state's standing eviction moratorium for the "duration of the health and economic crisis" spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. The legislators urged Cuomo to act quickly, in a letter sent just days before the June 20 expiration of a blanket eviction moratorium that took effect in mid-March. A modified version of the moratorium is set to take effect through late August, only barring certain evictions. The order states that there "shall be no initiation of a proceeding" to evict for nonpayment against "someone that is eligible for unemployment insurance or benefits under state or federal law or otherwise facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic."

The order, effective for 60 days starting in late June, is narrower than the current pandemic eviction moratorium, a blanket order barring all residential and commercial evictions. Some attorneys fear it could prompt a chaotic deluge of filings. One major change is that tenants facing nonpayment charges will have to demonstrate either that they are eligible for unemployment insurance or benefits, or that they are facing financial hardship because of COVID-19. 

After June 20:

  • If you had been in court for nonpayment of rent and your pay date has passed, your landlord MUST file a motion and you MUST be given another court date, before you can be served with a Marshal’s Notice of Eviction.
  • If you had been in court on a holdover, and you broke your agreement (ie to move out) you may be able to be served with a Marshal’s Notice of Eviction after June 20. More information will be posted as it develops. Please continue to check this website for additional information as well as:
    • You can call your borough’s housing court warrant clerk.
    • If you are served with a Notice of Eviction after June 20, you can call 311 to access the Covid Housing Helpline and speak with a legal services provider for more information.
NYS Assembly Member Harvey Eptsein talks about the #rent relief program, and how to get the legislation signed by Governor Cuomo.

NY Legislature Approves $100M Rent Voucher Bill For Tenants Affected by Coronavirus 

Both chambers of the New York State Legislature passed a bill that would provide up to $100 million worth of rent relief to cash-strapped tenants who lost income because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The program, administered by the state Department of Housing and Community Renewal,  will offer rent vouchers to New Yorkers earning less than 80 percent of the area median income both now and before the pandemic struck in March. (Eighty percent AMI is $63,680 for a single person and $90,960 for a family of four.) The vouchers are funded by $100 million from the federal CARES Act that was allotted to the state. Much like the federal Section 8 voucher program, the subsidy will be paid directly to the landlord.

Tenants who apply must meet the income threshold, spend more than 30 percent of their monthly income on rent, and be able to document lost income since March 7. Income includes “all wages, tips, overtime, salary, recurring gifts, returns  on  investments,  welfare assistance, social security payments, child support payments, unemployment benefits” and any other government benefits meant to replace lost income or rental payments, according to the legislation. 

The amount of the voucher would be calculated to cover “the gap between [a tenant’s] pre-COVID rent burden and their new rent burden” up to 125 percent of the federally-mandated fair market rent. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development determines fair market rent on a county and city-wide basis. For example, fair market rent for a studio in the New York metro area is $1,714.

The bill replaces Sen. Michael Gianaris’ rent and mortgage cancellation bill, which would waive rent for residential and commercial tenants affected by the pandemic and partially forgive mortgage payments for landlords who lose rent from tenants during the same period.

Many legislators voting yesterday acknowledged that the voucher bill was not enough to cover rent shortfalls for hundreds of thousands of New York City tenants, but felt that it was better than nothing. 

Lower East Side Assemblymember Harvey Epstein pointed out that the program wouldn’t help people who were spending less than 30 percent of their income on rent before the coronavirus struck New York. 

“We could do so much more for the tenants of New York,” said Epstein. “I’m not sure if it matters if they were rent burdened before the crisis. The question is today, are they rent burdened? How are we assisting the most vulnerable people who have lost all income? There are many New Yorkers who don’t have access to unemployment benefits for a variety of reasons. Many New Yorkers who are struggling every single day. And we’re telling them that if they weren’t rent-burdened before, we won’t assist them.”

Gov. Cuomo signed off on a slate of coronavirus-related bills meant to aid New Yorkers hardest hit by the crisis — including a controversial measure providing rent relief to a limited number of tenants impacted by the pandemic:  $100 million in federal stimulus funds to be used for rental vouchers, but only covers people who were paying more than 30% of their income in rent, lost income between April 1 and July 31 of this year, and make less than 80% of an area’s median income. Which is pretty narrow according to tenant advocates, who have repeatedly urged Cuomo to cancel rent altogether, panned the bill when it was passed, saying it fell far short of the needs of New Yorkers struggling to make ends meet.

Rent Hikes

With New York’s economy devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, more than two million residents can at least count on not having their rent hiked. The city’s Rent Guidelines Board voted Wednesday night to impose a rent freeze on regulated apartments, about a million homes around the five boroughs.

It’s a move Mayor Bill de Blasio pushed for after pandemic shutdowns sent hundreds of thousands of people to the unemployment lines. Landlords say they are broke too, struggling to pay operating expenses with so many tenants missing their rent payments. They wanted a rent hike to help recoup their losses or, failing that, a break on property taxes. One landlord group, the Community Housing Improvement Program, accused the board of “ignoring its own data so they can do the bidding of lame-duck Mayor Bill de Blasio.” With the city economy in its worst shape in recent history, many tenants said a freeze on rents wasn’t enough and wanted the board to force a reduction in rent, something it has never done before and declined to do this year. It instead approved a freeze for the third time in its history.

The board voted 6-3 to freeze rents for one-year leases signed starting on Oct. 1. For two year leases, there will be no hike in the first year and a 1 percent increase in the second year.