Tenants that have fallen behind in rent in New York have been given a lifeline to avoid eviction with the state's renewal of the eviction moratorium Wednesday.
The bill, that will bar residential and commercial evictions until January 15, 2022, will be signed on Thursday by Governor Kathy Hochul.
The bill also extends the Tenant Safe Harbor Act to January 15, 2022, and increases the Hardship Fund from $100 million to $250 million, allowing it to be used by tenants whose incomes are between 80% -120% AMI, landlords whose tenants vacated their property with rent unpaid, and landlords whose tenants are unresponsive or uncooperative.
To account for two recent Supreme Court decisions, the law will now also give landlords a path to challenge the Hardship Declaration submitted by tenants and for banks and mortgage holders to challenge the Declaration submitted by property owners to avoid foreclosure. It will also direct judges to require residential tenants to apply for COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program (CERAP) if their hardship claim is valid.
It will also add a nuisance standard to CERAP's eviction protections to give landlords an avenue to start an eviction proceedings against a covered tenant if a tenant is a nuisance or has inflicted substantial damage to a property.
In a statement, the New York State Senate Majority said the urgency of effective housing relief had never been greater, especially given the serious delays in the rollout of the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The statement said an extension of the state's eviction moratorium was the only way to ensure that New Yorkers were not left on the streets in the midst of a global pandemic.
"In addition to extending the residential eviction moratorium, the legislation passed today will extend the Tenant Safe Harbor Act, the residential foreclosure moratorium, the eviction and foreclosure moratorium for small businesses, expand CERAP, and extend virtual meetings for state and local government."
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said the senate had adjusted and extended the moratorium to ensure that thousands of New Yorkers were protected from losing their homes and at the same time helping small landlords.
"The Senate Democratic Majority will continue to fight to keep people in their homes and ensure that every individual who qualifies for these protections receives them."
Raun Rasmussen, executive director of Legal Services NYC -- the nation's largest provider of free civil legal services -- said as providers on the front lines throughout the pandemic, his team saw firsthand how desperately New Yorkers needed help with their rent so they could stay in their homes.
"Halting evictions while they get that help is the only humane approach. We applaud Gov. Hochul and the New York State Legislature for extending the eviction moratorium, which buys tenants critical time to apply for rental assistance through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
"At the same time, we urge the state to continue making improvements to the ERAP application and distribution process so that every New Yorker can get the funds they need to avoid the eviction process, stay safe, and stay in their homes."