Insolvent rent-aid program will close Jan. 15

Win for landlords, who say tenants exploit system to delay eviction

Attorney General Letitia James, Legal Aid Society attorney's cJudith Goldiner and Ellen Davidson (Legal Aid Society, Getty)
Attorney General Letitia James, Legal Aid Society attorney's cJudith Goldiner and Ellen Davidson (Legal Aid Society, Getty)

To the relief of landlords statewide, New York’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program will finally shutter Jan. 15.

“Thank God!” said June Margolin, a Long Island landlord who surveyed property owners plagued by the program.

The closure, which housing providers had begged for because ERAP provided eviction protection despite running out of rent aid, resulted from a lawsuit settlement reached Wednesday.

Tenants represented by the Legal Aid Society had sued to reopen the penniless program last December, arguing that more money could be coming down the pike. Very little ever did.

The agreement will lift the temporary injunction that kept the portal open through all of 2022, allowing nonpaying tenants to delay eviction just by applying. Landlords were forced to house them with little hope of repayment.

The settlement stipulates that if more funding from the state or federal government comes in after Jan. 15, the program will accept new applications. If the state then opts to close the portal again, tenants are allowed to challenge that in court.

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Landlords have petitioned state lawmakers and regulators, including the governor, to stop accepting applications to a program that has been underfunded for more than a year.

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Margolin found owners who had not been paid rent in over two years but couldn’t seek relief in housing court because of the program.

Although after Jan. 15 no more tenants can shield themselves from eviction by applying, current applicants will continue to receive eviction protection after that date. About 174,000 applications have yet to be paid out.

For landlords of those tenants, hope is scant that more funding will materialize to pay rent arrears. Legal Aid attorney Edward Josephson, in a statement, called it an “unlikely possibility” that New York would see more rent aid from Washington.

The program did not forgive rent; tenants still have a legal obligation to pay. But landlords often decide it is not worth the time and expense to obtain and collect judgments from tenants who have vacated their units.