With millions of New Yorkers out of work and losing money, many are wondering how they will pay rent during the COVID-19 crisis.
A few elected officials are coming to their aid. On Tuesday, Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz announced the NYS Tenant Safe Harbor Act.
This new legislation would strengthen Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 90-day moratorium on evictions by prohibiting landlords from evicting tenants for non-payment of rent that accrued during the current State of Emergency and for six months after its eventual end.
While the pause on evictions is helpful, residents are fearful they will be tossed out when the crises ends. These politicians are trying to make sure that doesn’t occur.
“The expiration of the 90-day eviction moratorium is a ticking time bomb for many tenants who have lost all sources of income during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially if they experience other significant expenses such as medical care while they are out of work,” Dinowitz said. “The New York State Tenant Safe Harbor Act is a common sense approach that will still allow landlords to seek payment for rent so that they can maintain their buildings while also acknowledging the reality that we need to take unprecedented action so nobody loses their home due to coronavirus.”
Landlords would continue to be able to seek money judgments for unpaid rent, but tenants would have housing stability with no threat of eviction for non-payment in the meantime.
The Tenant Safe Harbor Act is intended to complement, not supplant, proposals to cancel rent for those impacted by the COVID-19 emergency. Other proposals to cancel rent entirely do not apply retroactively, making this legislation necessary to prevent landlords from evicting tenants who cannot afford to pay rent in the time before legislation to cancel rent is potentially passed.
According to recent estimates from the Federal Reserve, COVID-19 could lead to 47 million jobs lost across the country and a nationwide unemployment rate of 32 percent. Under these new economic circumstances, millions of New Yorkers will be unable to afford rent payments.
Judith Goldiner, attorney-in-charge of the Civil Law Reform Unit of the Legal Aid Society praised the elected for their swift actions.
“This behemoth of a pandemic has already led to the loss of millions of jobs across the country,” Goldiner said. “With unemployment rates skyrocketing, we must protect the most vulnerable of tenants in New York who will not be able to pay rent during this crisis, and mitigate the devastating consequences that COVID-19 has already triggered.”