PIX 11: NY state senator says lawmakers set to work on meaningful tenant protections

Originally published in WPIX-TV on December 24, 2020.

NEW YORK — Governor Andrew Cuomo said he will extend the current eviction moratorium in New York State: the Tenant Safe Harbor Act

The Tenant Safe Harbor Act allows renters to cite the pandemic as a legal defense in court if they’re facing an eviction. But renters have been worried, Cea Weaver of the Upstate-Downstate Housing Alliance said.

"Tenants that we work with have been living with an immense amount of fear, an immense amount of uncertainty," Weaver said.

Legal Aid Society housing attorney Ellen Davidson believes the Cuomo's extension of the eviction moratorium is not reason to celebrate.

“People are at risk of losing their homes,” Davidson said. “The COVID crisis again seems to be ravaging communities unchecked.”

Courts are so backed up, many Legal Aid clients don’t even get the chance to argue their case before a judge, Davison said.

“One of my colleagues told me that they were in court representing a tenant who was currently in the hospital with COVID," Davidson said. "The judge is not sure that she qualifies as someone who has been harmed by COVID, and she might end up getting evicted, while she's hospitalized.”

Last week, the state extended their COVID-19 Rent Relief program. It helps low-income renters who’ve lost work since the start of the pandemic.

Next Monday, lawmakers in Albany will hold a remote end of the year session. State Senator Michael Gianaris said meaningful tenant protections are on the agenda.

“We’re suggesting that there be a two month outright moratorium on evictions followed by several months where all a tenant has to do is sign a form that they have some kind of hardship that makes them unable to pay rent and submit that to a landlord and that would prohibit and eviction," Gianaris said.