New York to ban evictions, tenants struggle to pay rent

New York to ban most evictions as tenants struggle to pay rent

For months, tenants and advocacy groups have been dreading the end-of-year expiration of eviction bans that have kept people in their homes

The New York Legislature is expected Monday to pass one of the most comprehensive anti-eviction laws in the nation, as the state contends with high levels of unemployment and a pandemic that has taken 37,000 lives statewide.

For months, tenants and advocacy groups have been dreading the end-of-year expiration of eviction bans that have kept people in their homes despite their inability to pay rent. Under the new measure, landlords would be barred from evicting most tenants for at least another 60 days.

A tenant in danger of being kicked out of a home could submit a document stating financial hardship related to the coronavirus to postpone an eviction.

The legislation would also make it harder for banks to foreclose on smaller landlords who are themselves struggling to pay bills. But advocacy groups for landlords said the bill could leave many in a lurch.

The Legislature is convening an unusual special session between Christmas and New Year’s to pass the measure, acting quickly because the governor’s executive order barring many evictions is expiring on Dec. 31.

Legislators expect Gov. Andrew Cuomo will sign the measure, which would go into effect immediately.

Tenant lawyers and advocacy groups said the state law would prevent landlords from throwing thousands of financially-strapped renters onto the streets in the winter as virus case numbers continue to rise.

“It’s going to save a lot of people’s homes,” said Ellen Davidson, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society. “It’s going to save lives.”

But landlords argue the bill oversteps, allowing tenants to avoid eviction by merely stating financial hardship rather than proving it.

“With no requirement of proof that the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected their income, and no income limitation to qualify for eviction protection, a tenant whose household income went from a half-million dollars to $250,000 would qualify for eviction protection by declaring that their income has been ‘significantly reduced,’” said Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, a landlord group.

The new law is by no means a panacea. Tenants will continue to owe landlords any back rent they haven’t paid, once the moratorium ends.