NYC Commercial Evictions Could Resume Sept. 21

By Emma Whitford
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Law360 (August 26, 2020, 8:56 AM EDT) -- Commercial evictions might resume in New York City on Sept. 21 but marshals tasked with executing them should not proceed at all until further notice, according to a letter from the Bureau of City Marshals.

Bureau Director Caroline Tang-Alejandro issued her latest guidance following a week of conflicting announcements from various state entities. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday issued Executive Order 202.57, extending a hold on certain commercial evictions through Sept. 20. Businesses hurting financially because of the coronavirus pandemic can use the extra time to settle up on rent and renegotiate their lease terms, the governor said.

Cuomo's executive order prompted the state court system to quickly rescind a detailed directive that suggested commercial evictions might resume after Sept. 4. The directive was issued Aug. 19, and rescinded just two days later. 

"It is anticipated that the court will issue further directives regarding commercial eviction procedures," Tang-Alejandro wrote Monday. "In the meantime, and until further notice, marshals shall not engage in any commercial eviction proceeding, or take any enforcement action of any commercial eviction."

"If Executive Order 202.57 expires without renewal, it is anticipated that commercial evictions may resume on Sept. 21, 2020," Tang-Alejandro added. 

Reached for comment on its timeline for new guidance, courts spokesperson Lucian Chalfen said he has been "told that there will not be any further guidance before Sept. 20."

Eviction cases filed since March 17 are subject to an ongoing suspension, suggesting that businesses that were issued warrants before the pandemic will be most vulnerable in the near-term. 

Monday's letter to city marshals is just the latest window into complicated inter-agency dynamics that have left tenants, landlords and attorneys scratching their heads for months. 

"It would be helpful if there was some general coordination so we could know exactly what the ground rules are," Matthew Brett of Belkin Burden Goldman LLP, who represents landlords, told Law360.

Commercial tenants, meanwhile, are demanding rental assistance from the government. They say this would be helpful in the face of constantly shifting messaging on evictions. 

Guy Yedwab is board president of the League of Independent Theater, a group of small theater venues, all of which were ordered to close in the spring as a public health precaution. 

"Everyone is confused," Yedwab told Law360. "Rent relief would be a lot more straightforward because it would remove the existential element of this. A few days of confusion over the eviction [timeline] might feel like a small thing."

The Bureau of City Marshals also on Monday addressed recent guidance from the state courts prohibiting residential evictions until Oct. 1 at the earliest.

"No residential eviction shall be scheduled, or take place, prior to Oct. 1, 2020," Tang-Alejandro wrote. 

--Editing by Rebecca Flanagan.

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