New York votes to extend eviction ban through August

Frustrated landlords demand Albany get rent aid out the door

Sen. Brian Kavanagh (Getty, iStock)
Sen. Brian Kavanagh (Getty, iStock)

Certain residential and commercial tenants can now avoid eviction until at least Aug. 31.

The state Senate and Assembly on Monday approved a measure that retroactively extends two recently expired laws that restrict evictions of residential and commercial tenants, as well as foreclosures on small landlords and businesses. Those seeking such protections must fill out hardship declaration forms, but do not have to submit proof that they are unable to pay.

The bill extends two state laws that expired May 1: the Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 and the Covid-19 Emergency Protect Our Small Businesses Act of 2021.

New York’s fiscal year 2022 budget, approved last month, created the framework for disbursing $2.4 billion in federal rent relief. That program will be administered by the state’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, which has not yet released applications for tenants and landlords to participate.

Landlords who accept federal aid are barred from raising rent or eviction tenants for one year.

Tenant advocates had called for an extension of the state’s existing eviction protections, noting that OTDA had yet to launch the federal program. The agency has said that it will begin accepting applications sometime this month.

Sen. Brian Kavanagh, who chairs the Senate’s housing committee and sponsored the extender bill, said last week that the timing of the federal relief program was not the main impetus for continuing eviction protections. Instead, he cited the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s finding that evictions “substantially contribute to Covid-19 transmission.”

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The percentage of New Yorkers testing positive for Covid has been dropping steadily for months and is now under 2 percent, prompting Gov. Andrew Cuomo to lift all restrictions on businesses no later than May 19 — except the bans in the extender bill.

In a statement, Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, said the bill kicks “the can down the road, instead of solving the problem.”

“This moratorium extension buys them more time to dole out federal funding, but in doing so the state has continued to deny due process to renters and their housing providers, which will just delay New York City’s recovery,” he said.

The Rent Stabilization Association, which represents owners of rent-stabilized buildings, took its own shot at Albany.

“We need our state lawmakers to act with the same lightning speed as they do with their political gamesmanship to get these federal rent relief funds into the hands of financially desperate renters and landlords to address rent arrears, as other states have been doing since early February,” said Joseph Strasburg, president of the group. “If this money were already out the door, eviction moratorium extensions would be a moot point.”

Under the extended laws, businesses with 50 or fewer employees can shield themselves from eviction and owners of 10 or fewer commercial units can stave off foreclosure. Similarly, residential tenants can stop holdover and nonpayment evictions by filing a financial hardship declaration with their landlord.

The measure also extends a bar on tax lien sales until Aug. 31.

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