New York state halts evictions statewide due to coronavirus

The measure will go into effect Monday at 5pm

Governor Andrew Cuomo (Credit: Cuomo by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images; iStock)
Governor Andrew Cuomo (Credit: Cuomo by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images; iStock)

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, New York officials have suspended eviction proceedings indefinitely.

In a memo, New York’s Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Malks said that starting Tuesday, eviction proceedings and pending eviction orders will be suspended statewide, until further notice. The judge’s rule will apply to all evictions, including commercial evictions.

News of the statewide moratorium follows a judicial ruling on Friday that imposed a ban on evictions in New York City for a week.

Though the courts will continue to remain open, effective Monday, March 16 at 5 p.m. all “nonessential functions of the court will be postponed,” Lucian Chalfen, a spokesperson for the New York Office of Court Administration, said in a statement to The Real Deal. 

Essential functions that will continue include proceedings on “landlord lockouts, serious housing code violations and repair orders,” according to Malks’ memo.

The decision to halt evictions comes amid calls from officials and community organizers from all over the state to implement an immediate ban on evictions — including a letter signed by two dozen state senators, followed by a similar letter from the state Assembly.

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Proponents of the measure said that halting the execution of evictions is not enough — requiring low-income tenants to appear in court would raise the risk of illness. Kentucky, Delaware, Minnesota and Massachusetts have all enacted eviction moratoriums, joining numerous cities across the country.

In a press conference that was broadcast Sunday morning from the Red Room in Albany, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he had tasked Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore with crafting a plan to reduce density but preserve necessary court functions.

“I spoke to the Chief Judge, and asked her to come up with a plan to keep essential services available, but for non-essential services, to postpone them,” Cuomo said.

On Friday, the Real Estate Board of New York circulated a pledge vowing to halt evictions for 90 days, signed by two dozen members — many of which own portfolios consisting mostly of market-rate units. Those firms, with few exceptions, are typically not the firms who process evictions in housing court. They are also better-positioned to withstand a pause in rent payments than smaller rental landlords.

“No one knows how long this pandemic is going to take to play out,” REBNY president James Whelan said Friday. “Our best guess, in terms of seeing this through, was to look at a 90-day time period.”

Many landlords across the state say they worry about how they will pay their lenders should their renters be unable to make ends meet.

Daniel Goldstein, principal of E&M Management, which owns thousands of apartments in New York City and the Hudson Valley, said that for his firm and his investors, it’s a scary time.

“What if we default on the mortgages right now? I’m very nervous. We don’t know where we’re going to be a month from now,” said Goldstein, who spoke to TRD before the eviction moratorium was announced. “Everyone is waiting to see what Cuomo says.”