By Allison Dikanovic, THE CITY
New York passed one of the nation’s most comprehensive eviction moratorium bills during the Legislature’s special year-end session. But it turns out the protections for tenants — and some property owners — aren’t automatic.
Here’s what you need to know — and do.
Some quick background
Nearly all eviction and foreclosure proceedings in New York are suspended until Feb. 26, with the potential for most to stay on hold until May 1 if the tenant fills out a form indicating they’ve experienced financial hardship or face health risks because of the pandemic.
That means almost all pending and ongoing cases are paused, and pretty much no new cases can be started for now. The only exceptions are for so-called nuisance holdovers, in which a landlord convinces the judge that the tenant is a hazard to other residents.
One very important action step
Eviction moratorium protection is not automatic.
You need to fill out a form from the courts called a hardship declaration. Get it to your landlord or an agent of your landlord to prevent them from evicting you — or to Housing Court in your borough if you already have a pending case.
You can also present the form directly to a marshal if you already have a warrant for eviction issued against you.
If you have a pending case, the state Office of Court Administration will send you a copy of the declaration. But if you’d rather not wait, you can fill it out now.
Here’s what Adam Meyers, director of litigation for Communities Resist, had to say about the bill: “It’s extremely helpful, and it’s a desperately needed measure to prevent this forthcoming tidal wave of evictions that we’re all worried about.”
Marika Dias, director of the Safety Net Project at the Urban Justice Center, said: “It’s obviously going to be helpful to a lot of tenants. But it’s not a real eviction moratorium, which would be a blanket protection… . It requires tenants to take a step to access the protection, which always makes it likely folks will slip through the cracks.”
Leo Goldberg, senior policy and research manager at the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, said: “It’s painting with a broad brush to capture a lot of people with a lot of different situations, which is helpful for right now because people are in financial trouble for a range of different reasons. This is much more accommodating with the range of challenges people are facing than past policies.”
An important note
The bill also requires that landlords attach a blank copy of the hardship declaration form when they demand rent or file a petition for eviction.
If your landlord doesn’t provide you a copy of the declaration, keep record of exactly what documents you receive, how you receive them and when you receive them, Meyers said. This evidence could help your case later, he added.
Under this new moratorium, the courts assume that tenants are telling the truth on this declaration form. (Keep in mind that a tenant signs the form under “penalty of law,” which means there can be legal consequences for lying.) Instead of the burden being on the tenant to prove in court that they qualify for protection, the burden is now on the landlord to show the court that a tenant does not qualify.
The definition of hardship is broader than past executive orders — and broader than the requirements for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moratorium that expires Jan. 31. The eligibility criteria go beyond lost income and account for challenges like added childcare expenses.
Some tips: Keep a copy of the form that you file. And if you’re not sure if you can truthfully fill out and sign the form, it might be a good idea to talk to a tenant attorney. You can call 311 and ask for the tenant helpline.
If you’re a homeowner or small landlord
The new law also puts residential foreclosure proceedings on hold and prevents new ones from being filed until Feb. 26, with the potential to put them off until May 1 if the owner fills out a hardship declaration form. The measure covers both mortgage and tax foreclosures, as well as tax lien sales for past tax debt. The only exception is for vacant or abandoned property.
The protection for homeowners encompasses a wide variety of hardships, including if a tenant has lost income and can’t pay rent. To qualify for these protections, you can fill out the hardship declaration form here in English or Spanish.
For mortgage foreclosure prevention, you send the form directly to your servicer.
We’ll let you know when we know more about the process for tax foreclosure and lien sale prevention in NYC.
The bill also protects property owners from negative credit reporting if they have fallen behind on mortgage payments.
This story was originally published on [January 7, 2021] by THE CITY.”
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