New York State’s Eviction Moratorium Has Expired

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Background

New York State—the state with the highest share of renters in the United States—allowed its eviction moratorium to expire on January 15. State officials enacted the Tenant Safe Harbor Act (TSHA) at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and repeatedly extended it to the point where it became the second longest statewide moratorium in the nation. The National Equity Atlas estimates that approximately 591,000 households in New York State are behind on rent. Now that the moratorium has officially expired, many landlords who have been unable to evict holdover tenants or tenants for nonpayment of rent, and, as a result, have lost substantial amounts of rental income during the pandemic, are looking to once again exercise their rights that have been placed on hold for nearly two years.

The Tenant Safe Harbor Act

Under the TSHA, any eviction proceeding against a tenant for the non-payment of rent or for holding over was stayed until Jan. 15, 2022 if the tenant submitted a COVID-19 hardship declaration form. Initially, the submission of this hardship declaration form served as conclusive, irrebuttable proof that the tenant suffered from an economic hardship imposed by the pandemic. However, the United States Supreme Court held that such conclusiveness raised unconstitutional implications for the due process rights of landlords, which forced New York State to amend the TSHA to permit landlords to contest a tenant’s assertion of hardship during a hearing. 

Under the amended TSHA, a landlord could evict a tenant despite the tenant’s submission of a completed hardship declaration form if the landlord established: (1) that the tenant was intentionally causing significant damage to the property or engaging in persistent and unreasonable behavior that infringed on the use and enjoyment of other tenants; or (2) that the tenant’s purported hardship did not exist. These limited grounds for eviction often failed in practice to provide landlords with the relief that they often sought. However, now that the TSHA’s eviction moratorium has expired, landlords no longer need to resort to the narrow confines of the TSHA’s limited grounds.

What Should You Do Now? 

If you are a landlord or represent a landlord who attempted to evict a tenant during the moratorium, and that tenant submitted a completed hardship declaration form, you likely received an adjourned, tentative hearing date for Jan. 18, 2022—the first business day following the moratorium’s then-anticipated expiration date of January 15. Now that January 15 has passed and the moratorium has officially expired, you likely will be contacted by the court in which your eviction petition is pending for the scheduling of your actual hearing date. We expect that such scheduling will occur chronologically, beginning with the landlords who filed their petitions earliest during the moratorium period. We recommend that if you do not hear from the court in the upcoming days, you call the clerk’s office to determine the status of your hearing.

Watch for Future Developments

As the recently seated Gov. Kathy Hochul finds herself caught between the competing pressures of landlord groups and a progressive caucus of the State legislature, it is unclear how the future legal landscape in New York will develop regarding the rights of tenants and landlords. In 2019 and 2021, the State legislature tried but failed to enact “good cause eviction” requirements. A good cause eviction law would limit the range of reasons for which landlords could evict tenants. Efforts to pass this form of legislation will likely be undertaken again this year. While Gov. Hochul has not disclosed her position on these types of requirements, the COVID-19 pandemic has placed a new spotlight on the State’s landlord-tenant laws, and the expiration of the eviction moratorium places new pressure for action on elected officials in Albany. This is an area of law that will be closely watched throughout the new year.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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