NY Legislators Call On Gov. To Extend Eviction Moratorium

By Emma Whitford
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Law360 (June 18, 2020, 10:19 AM EDT) -- More than 50 New York State legislators on Wednesday urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to extend the state's standing eviction moratorium for the "duration of the health and economic crisis" spurred by the coronavirus pandemic.

The legislators urged Cuomo to act quickly, in a letter sent just days before the June 20 expiration of a blanket eviction moratorium that took effect in mid-March. A modified version of the moratorium is set to take effect through late August, only barring certain evictions.

"We commend the eviction moratorium you issued in March," the state senators and assembly members wrote.

"Unfortunately," they continued, "this most recent order undoes that — because of its limited nature and the onus it will place on ... tenants who will be sued in court for nonpayment and will be required to prove their need in order to be protected."

Wednesday's letter comes amid mounting pressure from both tenant and landlord interests, with New York City housing courts poised to begin accepting new eviction cases on Monday.

Tenants and their advocates say they do not believe housing courts can function safely in a pandemic, while landlord attorneys have said their clients are under pressure to collect rent and execute evictions that have been on pause for months.

A recent study from a New York City-based landlord trade association, the Community Housing Improvement Program, found that between June 11 and June 15 two-thirds of commercial tenants and a quarter of residential tenants had yet to pay June rent.

"It is clear that the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are nowhere near an end," Executive Director Jay Martin said in a statement, calling for a "massive federally funded bailout" for renters.

New York State's unemployment rate jumped in April from 4.1% to 14.5%, its largest monthly increase since record keeping began in 1976, according to the state Department of Labor.   

Tenant advocates across the state have for months called on Cuomo to cancel rent for the duration of the pandemic. A recent analysis from groups including Housing Justice for All identified 14,802 residential evictions in New York City last year.

In a June 15 press release the groups called on Cuomo to "extend and strengthen the current eviction moratorium so that it is truly universal, covering all tenants at least through the end of 2020."

Wednesday's letter, spearheaded by Assembly Member‌s ‌Linda‌ ‌B.‌ ‌Rosenthal of Manhattan and ‌Steven‌ ‌Cymbrowitz of Brooklyn, and Sens. ‌Brian‌ ‌Kavanagh of Manhattan and Brooklyn and Gustavo Rivera of the Bronx, also calls on Cuomo to pause the reopening of housing courts across the state.

"We urge you to … order the court system to fully and functionally close for all eviction proceedings," they said, echoing a recent letter from state senators

In any given county the eviction moratorium should last until all executive orders that "closed or otherwise restricted public or private businesses" or "required postponement or cancellation of all non-essential gatherings" have lifted, they added. 

New York's Office of Court Administration has indicated that it will issue new guidance for housing court proceedings before the end of the week. The courts' own blanket moratorium on evictions, issued March 16 by Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks, still stands.

"We will rigorously monitor safety protocols and day-to-day operations, carefully balancing the justice needs of those served by our New York City courts with the safety of all those who work in and visit courthouses," Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said in a recent statement.

Cuomo's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

--Editing by Rebecca Flanagan.

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