The New York Legislature called a special session Monday to pass one of the most comprehensive anti-eviction laws in the nation. This action comes just as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's executive order banning most evictions is slated to expire in two days and President Trump signed a $2.3 trillion government funding and coronavirus relief bill.
In signing the bill on Sunday, President Trump approved $1.3 billion in rent relief for New Yorkers and stretched out a federal eviction moratorium. But New York legislators took additional action, as some argue the requirements for federal eviction protection are too rigorous.
The Legislature convened a special session between Christmas and New Year's to pass the measure, which was immediately signed by Cuomo. The bill bans landlords from evicting tenants for at least 60 days, protects landlords who own 10 or fewer apartments from foreclosure, and automatically renews tax exemptions for elderly or disabled homeowners. All ongoing eviction-related matters and residential foreclosure proceedings would be stayed or frozen for 60 days under the legislation. The measure also prohibits negative credit ratings to homeowners who receive a stay on tax foreclosure, mortgage foreclosure, or tax lien sale, or if they are in arrears and file a hardship declaration.
Protections for tenants, homeowners or small landlords who file an application of hardship because of the pandemic or a significant health risk related to a move will be extended until May 1, 2021. Up to 1.2 million New York households are currently at risk of losing their homes.
Evictions can continue in cases where a judge determines tenants have repeatedly faced nuisance complaints, such as for noise.
Key landlords in New York City believe the legislation has gone too far. Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, said his organization recognizes and supports the need to help tenants without sufficient financial resources pay rent due to health issues or job losses, however, he said, “This proposed bill extends the eviction moratorium for residential tenants based on the submission of a simple declaration of financial hardship without proving such hardship caused by COVID-related job loss or income reduction.”
Strassburg noted that the New York bill is less severe than California's law, which requires tenants earning at least $100,000 to provide documentation supporting their hardship claims. He said a cap on the amount of the rent level would guarantee that this bill's benefits reach those that need it.
The new law is in no way a solution. Once the moratorium ends, tenants will continue to owe landlords any back rent they haven't paid. Michael McKee, treasurer of tenants rights group Tenants PAC, cautioned that "when this is all lifted, there will be people owing thousands and thousands of back rent they cannot pay."
The assembly voted largely across party lines, with multiple Republican members holding that the measure did not do enough to protect landlords, especially those who own more than 10 properties. Others who voted against the bill suggested that tenants will try to game the system without the threat of eviction.
The state of New York ranks the second-highest in outstanding debt nationwide, behind only California.