Evictions issued before Covid-19 shut down housing court can now proceed, but those filed since are still suspended.
All evictions started after March 16 — including residential, commercial, nonpayment and holdover evictions — cannot move forward. Though cases filed before the shutdown can proceed, warrants cannot be executed until Oct. 1 at the earliest, according to a Wednesday memo issued by Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks.
The guidance comes nearly a week after Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended the eviction moratorium until Sept. 4. But the interpretation and implementation of that order was left to the courts.
Tenant advocate groups warned in early August that moving forward with existing cases could unleash as many as 14,000 pending evictions that were filed pre-Covid. A spokesperson for the court said the figure is likely far less than initial estimates.
Attorneys can still file new eviction cases, but must do so online or by mail. The guidance instructs unrepresented parties — the majority of which are tenants — to file court papers in person. The cases that can proceed must also be conferenced with a judge before more action is taken.
Sherwin Belkin, a partner at Belkin Burden Goldman, said the order “effectively neuters, rather than implements” legislation passed in June to allow tenants to raise financial distress as a defense for some evictions. That legislation allows money judgments in some cases, instead of evictions, which was an attempt to “strike a balance between owner and tenant rights,” he said.
“Although I recognize the unprecedented impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on every facet of our City and State, it is concerning that post March 17 proceedings remain ‘suspended’ by virtue of this Administrative Order,” Belkin said.
The order is the latest development in a confusing and haphazard reopening of the housing courts, which has at times frustrated both landlord and tenant attorneys. While city marshals have been instructed to hold off on executing any evictions, some cases are proceeding in court. In-person proceedings for some cases resumed in Brooklyn housing court at the end of July, with Staten Island following earlier this week.