Late afternoon on Election Day, Gov. Andrew Cuomo set a deadline for tenants to answer eviction petitions.
His executive order stipulates that any summary eviction proceeding for nonpayment of rent pending as of Nov. 3 must be answered within 60 days. The order does not apply to holdover evictions and others for nonpayment of rent.
The extension comes as a pause on Civil Court deadlines was about to run out — which would have opened the door for default judgments in eviction proceedings. Cuomo had renewed the suspension of deadlines — which only affected eviction proceedings — each month since March. A previous executive order, however, indicated that he would no longer do so after Nov. 3.
It’s the latest development in what court officials have called New York’s confusing policy response to tenants’ coronavirus dilemma. Currently, residential evictions can proceed, but the courts have said they are moving slowly.
Legal publication Law360 reported that out of 17,388 residential nonpayment evictions filed since June 22 in New York City, only 2,585 — or 15 percent — have been answered. Were it not for Cuomo’s executive order, those tenants would have received default judgments.
Ellen Daviidson, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society, said that tenants were told for months to hold off on answering while Cuomo’s pause order was in place. Now, the courts must act to inform tenants of the rule change, she said.
The Office of Court Administration “must contact all these tenants with instructions on how to answer,” Davidson said.
Representatives of property owners were also not pleased with the announcement. Nativ Winiarsky, an attorney at Kucker Marino Winiarsky and Bittens, called the action “incredible.”
Winiarsky noted that extending the deadline to answer an eviction does nothing to provide financial relief for landlords who have been unable to evict nonpaying tenants.
“The system is about to collapse, and all for the sake of short-term political expediency,” said Winiarsky.