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Evictions and COVID-19 in NY: What You Should Know

*This post was last updated on June 7, 2021.

Housing is healthcare. As we all endure the  COVID-19 public health crisis, it is critical that no one is kicked out of their home.  Below, we put together the most accurate information and resources to aid you and your loved ones in navigating eviction questions during these stressful times.

For assistance on case-specific issues, call our free NY COVID-19 Legal Resource Hotline at 929-356-9582 or visit nylag.org/hotline.

YOUR RIGHTS AS A TENANT

RESOURCES AND INFORMATION

We understand that many New Yorkers are anxious about their ability to pay back-rent. Please know there are billions of dollars of rent relief for tenants nationwide.

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program (“ERAP”) opened to applications on June 1, 2021. You need to apply online through this portal. You should apply if you have experienced financial hardship during the pandemic and have any rent arrears from March 13, 2020 and on. The program covers up to 12 months of back rent and three months of ongoing rent. Immigration status does not matter and the money does not need to be paid. If you back rent and are behind on your gas and/or electric bill, ERAP will also cover your utility arrears. There are many organizations that are assisting people to complete applications. You can find a list of these organizations here. The application consists of two main parts:

  1. Using an online form you input information input about yourself, the financial hardship you faced because of COVID-19, the people in your household, your income, information about your lease and the back rent that you owe, your utility arrears if you have any, and any prior rental assistance you might have received.
  2. After you submit that online form, you have to upload a number of documents to show the following: (a) the identity of each member of your household, (b) your address, (c) the income of all the people in your household, (d) a document showing what your monthly rent is, (e) documents relating to utility arrears if you’re applying for utility arrears. You can find a list of these documents here.

To be approved for assistance, you need to complete both parts of the application. Some may find the document upload process challenging. If you have any problems you should definitely reach out for assistance. Once your application, if you have a case in Housing Court, your case in Housing Court will be stayed pending a determination of your eligibility for the program. If you’re found eligible, the money will be sent directly to your landlord via direct deposit.

The Eviction Moratorium is in effect until August 31, 2021

  • On May 4, 2021, New York state passed a law extending the eviction moratorium from May 1, 2021 to August 31, 2021!
  • To be protected by the eviction moratorium, New Yorkers who have experienced hardship during the COVID-19 period must submit a Hardship Declaration (if you haven’t already) to the Court or their landlord to stay an eviction—or even the filing of an eviction case—until August 31, 2021. 
  • Once a tenant signs the hardship declaration and gives it to their landlord or the Housing Court, any existing eviction case is stayed until August 31, 2021. That means nothing can happen in the case until August 31, 2021. A hardship declaration is a form published by the state court system in which a tenant makes a sworn statement by checking a box on the form that they:
      1. have experienced financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic.
      2. and/or if the tenant had to leave their home now, it would pose a significant health risk because the tenant or one or more members of the tenant’s household have an increased risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19 due to being over the age of 65, having a disability, or having an underlying medical condition.
  • If your landlord has not already sued you in Housing Court and you give your landlord the hardship declaration, the landlord can’t start any case in Housing Court until August 31, 2021.
  • The landlord can still send rent demands.  Landlords can still send you letters and rent demands for any rent they claim you owe during this time.  However, those rent demands must now come with the hardship declaration. If you provide the hardship declaration to your landlord or the court, that will stop your landlord from starting its case in court until August 31, 2021.
  • Right now, you are still obligated to pay rent. However, as a result of the Tenant Safe Harbor Act, which became law in the summer of 2020, you cannot be evicted for any rent that became due after March 7, 2020, if you experienced financial hardship after March 7, 2020. But your landlord will still be able to sue you in Housing Court for unpaid rent and get a money judgment. Landlords won’t be able to evict you for post-March 7, 2020 rent that you owe until all parts of the state of emergency are lifted, which will likely not be for several months and possibly longer.
  • If you entered into an agreement in court prior to the moratorium that required you to pay rent by a certain date and you can no longer make that payment, your landlord cannot call the marshal/sheriff/law enforcement agency to evict you until February 25, 2021, and a status conference is held. That stay of eviction can be extended to August 31, 2021 if you give your landlord or the court the hardship declaration.

 Other Housing Court Matters

  • Housing Court is open for tenants to file cases such as landlord illegal lockouts, apartment repairs, and applications addressing serious repair orders. You can find more information about how to file those types of cases here.
  • All pending Housing Court matters are still postponed. Do not appear. New appearance dates will be sent to you directly. 
  • Landlords can file new cases. But when a landlord starts a new case, they must provide proof that they served you with the hardship declaration before they started the case. If you receive a hardship declaration from your landlord, sign it, and return it to your landlord (or the court), the landlord can’t start the case against you or move forward with a case until August 31, 2021.
  • There is a limited exception. Landlords can start new cases and not be stopped by the new law, but only if a tenant, “is persistently and unreasonably engaging in behavior that substantially infringes on the use and enjoyment of other tenants or occupants or causes a substantial safety hazard to others, provided.” The law also has a number of safeguards built in to prevent landlords from abusing this limited exception to do an end run around the law.
  • If you receive any legal papers from your landlord, their lawyer, or the Housing Court, DO NOT IGNORE IT. Contact NYLAG’s NY COVID-19 Legal Resource Hotline at (929) 356-9582 or online, or the New York City Office of Civil Justice at (718) 557-1379civiljustice@hra.nyc.gov, or visit their website.
  • Illegal Lockouts If you are an NYC tenant, you can file a case at an emergency courtroom to be let back into your unit. The courts and the City are referring all post-eviction and illegal lockout cases to the Right to Counsel legal services organizations, regardless of where you live or your income.  
  • Vacate orders are still issued when an apartment is dangerous or illegal, and only city agencies can issue them. Landlords are not legally empowered to directly issue vacate orders. During this crisis, we would expect to vacate orders to be rare — in response to truly dangerous situations or as the result of a fire. Once a vacate order is issued, tenants have the right to access relocation services provided by City agencies. Relocation services remain open during the crisis.  

NYCHA and Section 8 Residents

  • Section 8 Vouchers: While the HPD Section 8 Customer Service Office is closed to the public, the HPD Section 8 team is still available to the public. Voucher holders facing rent hardships due to drops in income should email DTRAI@hpd.nyc.gov or fax at 212-863-5299.
  • During this time, any HPD Section 8 voucher set to expire will be automatically renewed. Clients do not need to reach out to HPD for an extension. 
  • All subsidy terminations in the process are suspended until further notice. All tenant conferences & briefings are postponed & will be rescheduled. All hearings for appeal are canceled until further notice. HPD will continue to pay the subsidy until final determinations are made.
  • NYCHA Rent Reduction: A household may qualify for an NYCHA rent reduction based on a rent hardship. NYCHA has simplified its Rent Hardship Policy to make it easier to reduce the rent in NYCHA during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • NYCHA accepts applications through an Interim Recertification if an individual’s hours have been cut at work or for loss of a job.
  • Households can now submit Interim Recertifications for Income Changes via a new simplified Self-Service Portal interface
  • There is no waiting period to apply.
  • Until further notice, NYCHA residents may self-certify their income loss. This means that supporting documents such as pay stubs, a letter from the employer, and/or verification of unemployment benefits, which are usually required to submit the Interim Recertification, are not required at this time.
  • Households now have the ability to contact the Customer Contact Center (CCC) to make these requests over the phone. NYCHA CCC staff is equipped to answer questions related to the Rent Hardship policies put in place in response to the COVID-19 state of emergency. Households can call 718-707-7771 and select option 5.
  • Tenant Protection Information resources for tenants impacted by COVID-19 can be found at the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants’ webpage here: Information and Resources for NYC Tenants Impacted by COVID-19.

Rental/Emergency Assistance AND Ongoing Cash Assistance Benefits

  • Clients can apply for emergency assistance grants as well as ongoing Cash Assistance through ACCESS HRA, but if you’re applying for rental assistance, it’s best for you to first apply for ERAP. To apply for Cash Assistance, a client does not need to apply for an emergency grant, but we do ask questions during the online application process in order to make sure that an emergency grant is not needed to ensure the financial security of the clients. Therefore, every ACCESS HRA Cash Assistance application starts with a series of emergency indicator questions.
  • As provided previously, below are instructions for applying for Cash Assistance through ACCESS HRA. We encourage organizations to sign up for an ACCESS HRA training webinar for additional information on using our online tools. Click here to view the webinar options.
  • To apply for Cash Assistance or a one-time emergency grant (one-shot deal), clients will need to take the following steps:
  1. Visit ACCESS HRA and log-in
  2. Select the ‘Benefits’ link from the menu options on the homepage
  3. Select ‘Start a New Application’
  4. Select the ‘Cash Assistance’ option on the ‘Select Application’ page
  5. Identify any applicable emergency indicators and click ‘Next’
  6. Select the type of benefits you would like to apply for:
    • Cash Assistance
    • One-Shot Deal, or
    • Child Care without Cash Assistance (CILOCA)
  7. Complete and submit the application
  8. Follow instructions on the ACCESS HRA confirmation page and submit required documents using the ACCESS HRA Mobile App.

Clients with an active Cash Assistance case can submit a special grant request for rent or utility arrears via ACCESS HRA. To submit a Cash Assistance Special Grant Request, clients will need to:

  1. Visit ACCESS HRA and log-in
  2. Enter identifying information to ‘Find My Case’ and link to your HRA case
  3. Select ‘View Case’ in the ACCESS HRA user home page
  4. Select ‘Request Special Grant,’ located on the left-hand side
  5. Identify the special grant you are requesting, complete the request and submit
  6. Follow instructions in confirmation and submit required documents using the ACCESS HRA Mobile App.

If you’re an NYLAG client and have specific questions about your case, contact your NYLAG attorney. If you need legal assistance, contact us for help. 

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