The New York State Legislature voted Wednesday to extend New York’s eviction moratorium to January and expanded the provisions of the federal rent relief program.
The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reports the original residential and commercial eviction and foreclosure moratoria expired on August 31st. Governor Kathy Hochul said the eviction extension was needed because the federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program has been slow to distribute funds.
The State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance said that program has so far distributed or obligated more than $800 million to tenants and landlords.
The program provides up to 12 months in back rent and up to three months of future rent payments, as well as up to 12 months of overdue electric or gas bill payments to eligible tenants.
Tenants qualify based on income benchmarks, risk of homelessness and whether they’ve experienced a reduction in household income or increase in costs due to COVID-19.
At the same time, the Supreme Court last month struck down the New York moratorium’s provision allowing tenants to stave off eviction with only a form testifying to their financial hardship.
On Wednesday, the Legislature extended the moratorium until January 15, 2022 and introduced the measure that includes refining the extended moratorium’s policies and processes.
Landlords, banks and mortgage holders now have the ability to challenge a tenant or property owner’s “hardship declaration,” or a document attesting to their financial losses, increase in expenses or inability to pay for moving expenses because of COVID-19.
If a challenge occurs, a judge will now be able to look into a tenant or property owner’s hardship declaration and determine whether a stay of eviction is valid.
Lawmakers also extended the Tenant Safe Harbor Act, a state law enacted last year that protects tenants from eviction if they’re able to prove financial hardship between March 7, 2020 and June 24, 2021.
A landlord, though, could still bring tenants to court over rent payments.
Republicans, including State Senator George Borrello criticized the extension. Borrello issued a statement saying, “The harm inflicted on our state’s small property owners, struggling tenants and housing market during the pandemic is one of the state’s greatest failures of the past 18 months. Unconstitutional eviction moratoriums followed by an incompetent rollout of the $2.7 billion Emergency Rental Assistance Program has pushed small property owners to the financial brink and left tenants with mounting debts and confusion about why promised relief hasn’t materialized.”
Borrello added that the amended moratorium should have allowed housing courts to resume eviction proceedings as the state works on expediting the distribution of ERAP funds.
Borrello did go on record supporting the establishment a fund to help both tenants and landlords in special circumstances who cannot apply for ERAP funds, “including tenants who are above the income limits and landlords with uncooperative tenants who refuse to apply for funds to repay their debt.”