2020 ended with a number of important new COVID-19 relief measures from the federal and New York State governments. One of the most significant for our clients is the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020. The Act will protect many tenants from eviction before May 1, 2021. A brief summary of some of the provisions of the Act follows. Please join us for our January 25, Legal Support Center for Advocates presentation to learn more about the Act.
The Act’s eviction-related provisions allow tenants to complete a Hardship Declaration to alert their landlords and the courts that they are experiencing financial hardship or that moving during the pandemic would create a significant health risk. If a tenant has completed this Declaration and sent a copy to their landlord, an eviction proceeding cannot go forward against the tenant until May 1, 2021, unless the landlord claims the tenant is engaging in serious nuisance behavior. A court would ultimately need to decide if the nuisance behavior exception applies.
Tenants may complete the Declaration even if they are current on their rent if they are unable to afford the cost of moving or if moving would present a health risk. Financial hardship includes loss of income during the pandemic, as well as increased household expenses related to COVID-19. People over 65, those with disabilities and underlying health conditions, including people who are immunocompromised, may face a health risk if forced to move during the pandemic.
Landlords are required to provide the Hardship Declaration to their tenants several times before starting a new eviction proceeding. They are also required to give their tenants a mailing address and email address to return the Hardship Declaration. If an eviction case was already started, a tenant should also send a copy of the Declaration to the Court.
Eviction proceedings pending as of December 28, 2020 will be stayed until February 26, 2021. New eviction proceedings filed between December 28, 2020 and January 27, 2021 will also be stayed for 60 days from filing to give tenants time to complete the Hardship Declaration and seek legal help.
The new law also protects people whose eviction proceedings were further along in December 2020, including if a warrant of eviction or default judgment was already issued. Evictions should not be carried out without a new court conference between the parties, even in cases where the eviction was based on the tenant’s alleged nuisance behavior. Tenants may ask the court to vacate default judgments entered before December 28, 2020. People who believe that a default judgment may have been entered against them should contact our office for guidance on how the new law applies to them.
Nassau Suffolk Law Services is available to advise clients about the new moratorium or to help clients complete the Hardship Declaration. While the Declarations are straightforward, standardized forms, they are important legal documents. We recommend that everyone seek legal advice before completing the Hardship Declaration.
Visit our Website for an updated FAQ for renters, including information on other pandemic-related protections
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