NY's eviction moratorium is expiring. What other protections are available?
With New York’s eviction moratorium expiring Tuesday, New York renters and landlords find themselves in a maelstrom of shifting policies regarding eviction amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The state put into place a number of tenant protections over the past 18 months, implementing both state and federal measures to keep people in their homes to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Now, several of the most stringent policies, including state and national moratoriums, are expiring or being struck down in court, leaving tenants questioning what their eviction status could be in the months to come.
Help could be on the way, though. The state Legislature is expected to meet as early as this week to extend some of the provisions as the current law sunsets.
And if so, New York might extend the moratorium through mid-January, the New York Daily News reported late Monday, citing unnamed sources.
What eviction protections are expiring?
New York lawmakers enacted the state’s eviction moratorium in late 2020 and extended it earlier this year, saying there was a continued need to keep people in their homes for public health.
The state also needed time to distribute federal funding through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which got off to a slow start in New York in June.
At the national level, an order staying evictions imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Aug. 3 was struck down by the Supreme Court last week; justices said the CDC didn’t have the legal authority to impose the moratorium, and that Congress would need to pass legislation to continue to halt evictions.
The White House said the decision would negatively affect tenants around the country.
“The Biden Administration is disappointed that the Supreme Court has blocked the most recent CDC eviction moratorium while confirmed cases of the Delta variant are significant across the country,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki in a statement Thursday.
“As a result of this ruling, families will face the painful impact of evictions, and communities across the country will face greater risk of exposure to COVID-19.”
What protections are still in place?
Tenants can still access eviction protection through the Tenant Safe Harbor Act, a state law enacted last year, if they’re able to prove financial hardship between March 7, 2020 and June 24, 2021. A landlord can still bring tenants to court over rent payments.
The most robust protection still available is the $2.7 billion federal and state Emergency Rental Assistance Program, abbreviated as ERAP, which provides up to a year of rent arrears and/or utility payments and up to three months of future rent payments for eligible tenants, plus up to a year of protection from eviction.
Also, a pending application with ERAP, even if a tenant is not fully approved, protects that tenant from eviction in court.
Tenants qualify based on a variety of factors, including income benchmarks and whether they suffered financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Landlords ultimately receive the federal payments if the tenant is eligible; landlords can also apply for funding on a tenant’s behalf.
If a landlord chooses not to participate, an eligible tenant can still access the funds and be protected from eviction for up to a year; the state will hold the money for six months while trying to contact the landlord, OTDA officials noted in a hearing in mid-August.
The program launched in New York in June and faced a deluge of more than 160,000 applications by the end of July, according to state data.
The state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the agency leading the program’s state rollout, streamlined the application process and fixed technical glitches to get more than $800 million earmarked or distributed to tenants by the end of August.
Gov. Kathy Hochul, inaugurated last week, pointed to the distribution of federal rent relief funding as one of her administration’s top priorities, and said the rental assistance is “long overdue.”
“I want the money out now - no more excuses and delays,” Hochul said in her first address to New Yorkers after becoming governor.
How to apply, what's needed to qualify:New York program will cover your overdue rent, utility payments
What’s being done to expedite ERAP’s rollout?
In her first address, Hochul announced a new “targeted” campaign to get the word out to New Yorkers about the rent relief program.
New data showing a breakdown of rent relief payments by county was expected to be posted on OTDA's website to increase transparency.
Additionally, Hochul said she plans to form a partnership between legislators, cities and counties across the state, including New York City, to expedite the distribution of funding.
The state also reassigned 100 contracted workers to work solely with landlords to clarify and obtain missing information and process more applications.
"While we continue to take steps to ease and expedite the application process, we are also encouraging all eligible New Yorkers to apply for this critical assistance,” OTDA Commissioner Mike Hein said in a statement last week.
How do I apply for ERAP and find out more?
To apply to the program, visit www.otda.ny.gov/programs/emergency-rental-assistance.
Also available on that website is more information about the program and the documents needed for an application.
Some cities and counties, including a number of downstate towns, Onondaga County and a joint effort between Monroe County and the City of Rochester, opted to run the federal rent relief program themselves, handing out millions in funding to local recipients over the summer.
Tenants and landlords can access information about these local programs on the OTDA website.
Gov. Kathy Hochul on rent relief rollout:Get the money out now
Sarah Taddeo is an enterprise reporter for USA Today Network's New York State Team. Got a story tip or comment? Contact Sarah at STADDEO@Gannett.com or (585) 258-2774. Follow her on Twitter @Sjtaddeo. This coverage is only possible with support from our readers. Please consider becoming a digital subscriber.