Commercial evictions get green light, but only in name

New cases can be filed starting Aug. 20, but will be immediately adjourned

Commercial evictions are on ice — for now
Commercial evictions are on ice for now

For landlords stuck with non-paying commercial tenants, new evictions can be filed starting Aug. 20 — but don’t expect the cases to go anywhere.

The courts allowed for the filing of new commercial and residential evictions starting June 22, but did not move forward with the cases. Now, guidance issued this week by the Office of Court Administration said that commercial evictions can start back up this month — but would immediately be adjourned.

“It’s hard to say this is guidance,” said Luise Barrack, an attorney at real estate law firm Rosenberg and Estis. “They want to say they’re open — it’s optics, that’s all it is.”

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She said that court clerks have been writing “date to be determined, no return date” on cases brought in recent weeks.

Proceedings on pre-Covid evictions can also resume, but will also be adjourned. A court spokesperson said that city marshalls still don’t have clearance to issue warrants for commercial and residential evictions, which have been on hold since March 15.

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The spokesperson also confirmed that commercial proceedings can resume Aug. 20, “unless the governor weighs in.”

The continued disarray in the courts has been an ongoing source of frustration for real estate and tenant attorneys, who have been trying to make sense of guidance that is, at times, contradictory.

“Given the current climate and the confusion caused by these orders, landlords may be well served to wait to Sept. 4 just to avoid the risk of having a court rule the case was begun prematurely,” said Nativ Winiarsky, an attorney at Kucker, Marino, Winiarsky and Bittens. (Gov. Andrew Cuomo had extended the pause on most evictions until next month.)

He suggested that landlords who wish to evict their commercial tenants should take their cases to Supreme Court, where they can file ejectment actions.

Adam Leitman Bailey, an attorney at his eponymous firm, said the holdup of commercial evictions is to blame for keeping New York City’s economy from restarting.

“It’s interesting that the Office of Court Administration is saying they’re open for business when they put out a memo in writing that you can’t proceed,” he said. “To me it’s disingenuous and disheartening.”