Judge tosses landlords’ challenge to New York eviction limits

Ruling also clarifies a legal issue with state law around evictions

New York /
Oct.October 15, 2020 01:00 PM
Judge David Zuckerman (iStock)

Judge David Zuckerman (iStock)

A New York state judge dismissed a challenge to eviction limits, and asserted the court’s ability to issue such orders in the future.

The plaintiffs, three landlords in Westchester County, New York, sought to block Judge Lawrence Marks’ administrative order which, until Oct. 1, halted all evictions statewide. That order was superseded by state and federal rules, which nullified the petition, according to State Supreme Court Judge David Zuckerman’s ruling.

In his decision, Zuckerman affirmed the court system’s power to take similar actions in the future, and resolved a legal quandary that arose when language in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order conflicted with the law he sought to modify.

Specifically, Cuomo’s executive order, which bars execution of judgments or warrants of evictions, modified the Tenant Safe Harbor Act, which sought to bar issuance, rather than the enforcement of evictions. To resolve the difference, Zuckerman ruled that the order modified the law by “specifically barring execution or enforcement of all judgments or warrants of eviction until January 1, 2021.”

“The courts have the right and duty to protect their employees and the public during a public health emergency,” Zuckerman wrote in the ruling.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs did not return a request for comment.

Landlord groups have said that limiting evictions without providing rent subsidies or reducing taxes places an unfair burden on property owners when tenants can no longer afford to pay rent. While residential evictions in New York can now proceed, as of Oct. 12, they are limited by the Tenant Safe Harbor Act, which bars evictions if a tenant can document financial distress during or prior to coronavirus pandemic. They are also limited by federal restrictions implemented in September.

Earlier this year, when Marks issued orders to delay eviction proceedings, he struck a “fair and legal balance between the rights of landlords to pursue the remedy of eviction” and the “prospect of the courts filling with potentially infected litigants,” according to Zuckerman’s decision.

The CDC rule, which some tenants can raise as a defense against an eviction, can be superseded by a more restrictive local law. But because the federal protections exceeded those of New York State at the time it was implemented, it made not only the state administrative orders limiting evictions irrelevant, it also made pointless any challenges to the administrative orders.

Roland Nimis, a supervising housing attorney at Legal Services NYC who does eviction defense work in the Bronx, said that he hopes Zuckerman’s decision will encourage courts to “be confident in their own power to make rules,” both in New York and across the country, where landlord groups have filed similar challenges to eviction limits.

“Tenants are having to choose between their health, and rejoining the economy to pay rent and protect the health of their family by not being evicted,” said Nimis. “It’s an impossible choice, and one they shouldn’t have to make.”





    Related Articles

    arrow_forward_ios
    (iStock)
    Homebuilder sentiment ticks up in April
    Homebuilder sentiment ticks up in April
    Brian Feil of the Feil Organization and 360-370 Fulton Street (Google Maps)
    Feil Organization to buy Downtown Brooklyn development portfolio
    Feil Organization to buy Downtown Brooklyn development portfolio
    Photo illustration of Brookfield Property Partners’ Brian Kingston (Brookfield, iStock)
    Struggling hotel company handing Brookfield the keys
    Struggling hotel company handing Brookfield the keys
    G&M Realty's David Wolkoff (Getty, 5Pointz LIC)
    Wolkoff’s $300M for 5Pointz tops outer-borough loan list
    Wolkoff’s $300M for 5Pointz tops outer-borough loan list
    General Assembly's CEO Lisa Lewin (General Assembly)
    General Assembly renews 40K sf lease in Flatiron District
    General Assembly renews 40K sf lease in Flatiron District
    Doctors and medical professionals have remained on time with their rent payments in the past year (iStock)
    Medical offices are just what the doctor ordered for landlords
    Medical offices are just what the doctor ordered for landlords
    A rendering of 85 Jay Street and RXR Realty CEO Scott Rechler (Winick, Getty)
    RXR makes $220M apartment bet in Brooklyn
    RXR makes $220M apartment bet in Brooklyn
    Thor Equities Group Chairman Joseph J. Sitt. (Thor)
    Thor facing foreclosure on Harlem rental building
    Thor facing foreclosure on Harlem rental building
    arrow_forward_ios

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

    Loading...