Law360: NY Bill Would Extend Eviction Protections Through August

Originally published in Law 360

On Monday, April 26, 2021, Emma Whitford reported on a bill, co-sponsored by Senate housing committee chair Brian Kavanagh and Assembly codes committee chair Jeffrey Dinowitz, that would extend eviction protections through August. The full text of the story is below; the original is available via the link above.

NY Bill Would Extend Eviction Protections Through August

By Emma Whitford
Law360 (April 26, 2021, 6:00 PM EDT) 

Days before eviction protections in New York are scheduled to expire on May 1, new legislation could extend those protections through Aug. 31. 
The bill is co-sponsored by Senate housing committee chair Brian Kavanagh and Assembly codes committee chair Jeffrey Dinowitz, both Democrats, and is scheduled for committee votes Tuesday, with floor votes possible soon thereafter.
"This bill is a result of extensive conversations between legislators in both houses," Kavanagh told Law360 on Monday.
Dinowitz added in a phone interview that while "nothing is done until it's done," he is "hopeful that the two houses will pass legislation by Wednesday."
The bill would extend both residential eviction legislation passed in December and a commercial counterpart signed this spring, and would continue New York's trajectory of maintaining some of the country's longest-lasting eviction protections in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to tenant protections, the bill also extends mortgage and tax foreclosure prevention for homeowners and small landlords who own 10 or fewer units.
"The [COVID-19] numbers in New York continue to be high," Kavanagh told Law360. "The most recent numbers we have show that we have high rates of transmission in every county. So this bill will give us the time necessary to get the vaccination rate up and get transmission under control."
While 48 states had eviction protections at some point during the pandemic, only 15 had protections in place beyond March 1 of this year, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office. A federal anti-eviction policy from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was recently extended through June. 
Tenant advocates welcomed the new bill Monday, having raised concerns that the current law would expire before New York launches a much anticipated program to administer more than $2 billion in federal rent relief, likely in May.
Cea Weaver, organizer with the statewide tenant coalition Housing Justice for All, told Law360 that she is "happy and relieved," and that the Legislature should use the coming months to pass permanent good cause eviction protections for tenants across the state.
In an emailed statement, the Legal Aid Society said that it "applauds" the Legislature "for introducing legislation to ensure that this critical [eviction] safeguard remain intact," and urged its swift passage, and for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign it.  
Landlord advocates, meanwhile, were quick to condemn the new bill.
"There's no legal, health, or rational reason for extending this law until August 31. Every measurement we have suggests we are winning the battle against the pandemic," said Jay Martin, director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, a trade group for New York City landlords. 
With federal rent relief on the way, added Olga Someras, general counsel of the Rent Stabilization Association, "there is no practical purpose served" in an extension.
If passed this week, the bill would not constitute a blanket moratorium on all evictions.
Since late February, New York courts have significantly increased the number and variety of eviction cases on their dockets. The majority of hearings are virtual, and many have involved matching unrepresented tenants to a free lawyer.
"The court is really trying to move these cases, in the sense of having something happen in them, even if there is not a possibility at the moment that the tenant is subject to eviction," said Nakeeb Siddique, director of housing for the Brooklyn Neighborhood Office of the Legal Aid Society. "At the minimum, connecting them to a service provider."
However, unless a landlord is pursuing claims that their tenant is causing a serious and persistent nuisance, tenants can submit a form attesting to their pandemic-related hardship in order to pause their case for as long as the law is in place.
"I don't see any progress for landlords yet," said Lisa Faham-Selzer of Kucker Marino Winiarsky & Bittens LLP. "Most cases are being adjourned and further dragged out. … Nuisance cases always move slowly. They are now just essentially stalled out."
Nearly 30,000 residential hardship forms had been submitted in pending cases in New York City as of last week. More than 5,800 forms had been filed proactively by tenants, to prevent a case from being commenced against them.
On the commercial side, 50 New York City tenants have filed hardship forms since March 10, when their protections took effect.
New York City marshals have reported conducting just nine court-mandated residential evictions since mid-March of last year, clustered in November and December, compared to more than 15,800 the year prior.
Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay, a Republican, said he opposed the bill.
"The pandemic has created massive financial issues for both tenants and property owners," he said in a statement. "Extending an eviction moratorium helps only one side of the equation. Small landlords will continue to be punished."
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat, voiced her support for the anti-eviction bill Monday. "This new extension will continue to ensure that New York tenants, homeowners, business owners, and small landlords will not have to fear losing their homes or businesses," she said.
Representatives for Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, both Democrats, did not reply to requests for comment Monday.
--Editing by Alex Hubbard.