Weeks after New York’s eviction moratorium expired, legal services were overwhelmed by an influx of cases. In the months since, the situation has only grown more burdensome.
Landlords have filed about 2,000 eviction cases on a weekly basis since the beginning of March, the New York Times reported. The volume of filings represents about a 40 percent jump from mid-January, when the moratorium expired.
People are beginning to be evicted. The process is slow, as cases wind their way through housing court, but ore than 500 cases have resulted in tenants losing their homes since February.
The increase in filings has left tenants in the lurch as they struggle to find representation they’re entitled to under the city’s Right to Counsel program. Last month, several legal services providers urged the courts to slow scheduling so low-income tenants could get representation, irking landlords seeking to be made whole financially.
As of early April, housing courts were contending with a backlog of 200,000 eviction cases that piled up during the two-year eviction ban. By comparison, about 262,000 eviction suits were filed in all of 2019, according to data from the state court system.
A spokesman for the court recently said legal groups have declined almost 1,400 cases since the start of March. Legal Services NYC has stopped accepting cases in Brooklyn, while Legal Aid Society has stopped taking new cases in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.
Legal services providers are jockeying for upcoming law school graduates to help ease the caseloads of attorneys struggling to cope with the sheer volume of cases coming through housing court.
Lucian Chalfen, spokesperson for the courts, rejected the notion of a slowdown, saying it would “accomplish nothing” and the backlog would continue. Chalfen noted the number of scheduled cases was below pre-pandemic levels, down 41 percent compared to 2019’s first quarter.
[NYT] — Holden Walter-Warner