Lawmakers pass COVID-19 eviction protection bill for New York City renters

AM Dinowitz passes COVID-19 eviction protection
Courtesy of Office of AM Dinowitz

With the eviction moratorium ending Aug. 20 and many people choosing to pay for food over rent during the pandemic, many wonder if there will be mass evictions across the city.

In fact, Yahoo predicts An ‘Avalanche of Evictions’ could be coming.

In an effort to prevent people from losing their home due to COVID-19, Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz passed legislation May 27 codifying the statewide eviction moratorium and extending it until the end of the COVID-19 emergency for anyone who has experienced financial hardship during this period.

The legislation represents a compromise between the Assembly and Senate with the ultimate goal of creating a bill that would be signed into law by the governor. It is viewed as an essential first step, which will keep people in their homes while financial relief for tenants is being negotiated on the federal level.

“One of the most important things we can do is keep people in their homes and prevent them from becoming homeless,” Dinowitz said. “While we wait on the federal government to do their jobs and provide disaster relief funding to people who have been impacted by COVID-19, this legislation is a life-changing protection for tenants. Thank you to State Senator Hoylman, Legal Aid Society, and my colleagues in the legislature for their partnership on this legislation, and we will continue fighting alongside legal services providers to ensure that everyone is aware of their rights as a tenant and has access to help if they are taken to housing court.”

The legislation defines “COVID-19 covered period” as rent due or accrued beginning on March 7 — the date the state emergency order was declared for COVID-19 — until the date on which business restrictions and non-essential gathering restrictions have ended. In the context of the NYForward reopening guide, this equates to Phase 4, permitting the resumed operation of arts, entertainment, recreation and education sectors.

Tenants who experience financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic will be allowed to raise it as a defense during eviction proceedings based on the following factors:

  • a tenant’s lawful income prior to and during the COVID-19 covered period
  • a tenant’s liquid assets
  • a tenant’s eligibility for and receipt of other benefits under state or federal law

The court may also consider other relevant factors to evaluate whether financial harm has occurred.

If a tenant is determined to have suffered financial hardship, the court would be prohibited from issuing a warrant of eviction or judgment of possession against them. The court could instead award a money judgment for rent owed. The tenant would be financially obligated to pay the rent they owe, but it would not impact their legal right to remain in their home.

Judith Goldiner, attorney-in-charge of the Civil Law Reform Unit at The Legal Aid Society, praised the legislation.

“Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, we must make every attempt to protect New Yorkers from eviction and to mitigate the devastating effects caused by the crisis,” Goldiner said. “We commend Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz for introducing this legislation and taking a stand to prevent tenants who have experienced a COVID-related financial hardship from losing their homes during this period.”