New York landlords and tenants blast CDC eviction ban

The order from Washington allows for some evictions and could also call state and local legislation into question

National /
Sep.September 03, 2020 07:00 AM
(iStock)

(iStock)

Jaime Cain, a real estate attorney in Rochester, New York, nabbed one of the first court dates for a pre-Covid eviction as trials slowly picked up after a months-long shutdown.

But just two days before the scheduled conference, the federal government may have dashed those plans. “Is it still happening? Is it canceled? I don’t know,” Cain said of her day in court.

Washington’s new eviction ban shocked landlords and tenants when it came not from the agencies that oversee housing or fiscal policy — but from the Centers for Disease Control. Tenants say it leaves too many out, while landlords warn it will push property owners over the precipice.

The order also surprised many inside and outside of the real estate industry because of its relatively broad applicability. Previous federal eviction bans were limited to only properties with federally backed mortgages, but the new order applies to all residential properties.

The mandate leaves a lot of unanswered questions about local eviction bans, which can still remain in place if they are stricter than the federal ban. Some legal practitioners are now wondering if New York’s recently signed law allowing money judgments instead of evictions for nonpayment of rent will be voided by the new federal ban.

“You’re leaving the most crucial industry except food out in the cold,“ said Cain. “And what if New York passes more restrictive laws?”

Several laws to cancel rent, provide rental vouchers, and extend the eviction moratorium indefinitely have been proposed in New York, but have not yet passed the state legislature.

The cost of not adhering to the new federal eviction order is steep. Despite the confusing barrage of state eviction bans, court guidance, and now the CDC-mandated federal eviction ban, those who violate the newest order could face steep penalties of up to $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for organizations.

Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, called the federal move “a scheme that addresses one group at the expense of another.”

“Tenants who haven’t had the rent money for five months are not going to come up with nine months of rent in December,” he said.

Tenant advocates aren’t happy with the eviction moratorium, either.

The new order does not prevent evictions that are not related to non-payment, and it does not prevent non-renewal of leases. That can amount to an unofficial eviction notice for many renters, especially unregulated tenants who are not guaranteed a lease renewal, or are on informal month-to-month leases.

Evictions for non-renewal could be carried out for tens of thousands of tenants in New York, said Ellen Davidson, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society. While the order blocks many evictions until Dec. 31, Davidson said that an end-of-year expiration date could make things worse, since Congress is not in session in the winter months and will not be available to act further.

“What exactly do you think is going to happen January 1? It can’t be that as of January 2, everyone gets evicted,” Davidson said. “And what happens to rent in the meantime?”

The Right to Counsel Coalition — which pushed New York City to provide free representation for tenants in housing court — called the federal mandate a “moral failure.” The group criticized the order in part because it only lasts until Dec. 31, and said it does not expect new eviction cases to move forward before then.

At the same time, the federal ban on evictions could spur landlords to seek alternatives to filing evictions in housing court. That includes ejectment actions filed in state supreme court for cases that don’t involve non-payment of rent.

Some attorneys say the order from Washington may also lead to a proliferation of evictions for violations of lease terms.

“As a practical matter, you might see desperate landlords bring more holdover evictions,” said Cain. “The New York version of this moratorium was much more pragmatic.”


Related Articles

arrow_forward_ios
$1B in Rent Reduction Available to Select Blackstone Tenants (Blackstone)
Blackstone to spend $1B in affordable single-family rental expansion
Blackstone to spend $1B in affordable single-family rental expansion
Demonstrators in front of the New York Public Library in Bryant Park (Photos by Suzie Cavanaugh for The Real Deal/Illustration by Steven Dilakian)
Good cause eviction protest ends in arrests outside Hochul’s NYC office
Good cause eviction protest ends in arrests outside Hochul’s NYC office
RSA President Joseph Strasburg (iStock)
Landlords, tenant lawyers clash over reopening of rent relief portal
Landlords, tenant lawyers clash over reopening of rent relief portal
(iStock/Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)
Owning is more affordable than renting, even amid rising home prices
Owning is more affordable than renting, even amid rising home prices
From left: Eric Adams, mayor of New York City; Rich Buery, chief executive officer, Robin Hood; Scott Short, chief executive officer, RiseBoro (Getty Images, Twitter/LISC NYC, iStock/Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal)
Nonprofits call for greater access to city vouchers as evictions loom
Nonprofits call for greater access to city vouchers as evictions loom
Gov. Kathy Hochul, RSA President Joseph Strasburg, The Fortune Society's Andre Ward (Getty, Fortune Society/Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)
Hochul aims to stop landlords’ knee-jerk rejections of ex-cons
Hochul aims to stop landlords’ knee-jerk rejections of ex-cons
(iStock)
Canada’s biggest city has just 3,200 homes for sale, an all-time low
Canada’s biggest city has just 3,200 homes for sale, an all-time low
Gov. Kathy Hochul, Judge Lynn R. Kotler, OTDA Executive Deputy Commissioner Barbara C. Guinn (Getty Images, OTDA, Touro Law Center's Office of Development, Alumni Relations)
State has 3 days to reopen rent relief portal: judge
State has 3 days to reopen rent relief portal: judge
arrow_forward_ios

The Deal's newsletters give you the latest scoops, fresh headlines, marketing data, and things to know within the industry.

Loading...