Moratorium on evictions extended

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ALBANY – State lawmakers voted Monday to extend the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures under the “COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020.”  The moratorium is extended until August 31, 2021.

The bill, being sent to Governor Cuomo for his signature, extends the limitations on landlords to prohibit them from evicting residential tenants that are experiencing financial hardships as a result of the pandemic.  The moratorium had expired on May 1.  The extension also applies to certain commercial tenants.

According to the Democratic sponsors of the bill, it allows residential tenants that are suffering financial or health-related hardships to file a “hardship declaration, under the penalty of perjury with their landlord or court that would prevent the filing of an eviction or halt any that are in progress.

It also allows mortgagors who own 10 or fewer residential dwellings to file a hardship declaration with their mortgage lender, other foreclosing party, or a court to prevent the filing of a foreclosure action or stay any foreclosure action in progress, and gives property owners who own ten or fewer residential dwellings to file the hardship declaration to prevent local governments from engaging in any tax lien sale or foreclosure.

Senator Mike Martucci (R, New Hampton) voted against the extension. “You may recall that this moratorium has been in place for well over a year already, meaning some landlords have received no rent in over 12 months. This is true despite the fact that those who are unemployed have been receiving enhanced benefits since last year and others have continued to work uninterrupted. The law in this state merely requires you to certify that you have been negatively impacted financially by the pandemic. If you do so, it’s virtually impossible for your landlord to evict you.”

The freshman lawmaker said he opposed the policy “not because I want people evicted, but because I believe landlords have a right to go to court when tenants cannot pay their rent. The extension of the eviction moratorium means no one gets their day in court. That is un-American and it’s wrong.”

He also noted that the state budget approved $2.4 billion to help tenants pay their back rent. “As of this writing, no process has been put in place, no application designed and not one penny in funding released by the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to help tenants or landlords. Those that need help should receive it, but the law as written in New York makes it far too easy to game the system.”

Martucci said what is needed is “to allow landlords and tenants to present the facts in their specific circumstances. Evictions with proper cause should move forward and those without that legal basis should not. Albany should stop interfering in that process and focus on distributing the $2.4 billion to landlords and tenants that need relief now.”

State Senator Sue Serino, (R-Hyde Park) opposed the legislation for what she said is its failure to address the underlying funding issues.  “New York is sitting on billions of dollars that is supposed to be used to fund a rental assistance program that would keep New Yorkers in their homes” she said. “Instead of passing another blanket eviction moratorium that only sends thousands of New Yorkers deeper into debt, this moratorium does absolutely nothing to provide the meaningful relief renters, small landlords, and homeowners so desperately need. That’s why I ultimately voted against it and will continue to push for the real relief that keeps people in their homes and helps get our economy back on track.”

Assemblyman Karl Brabenec (R-Westbrookville) also railed against the legislation due to what he said was a lack of a long-term plan by the Democratic majority. “This policy was a disaster from the beginning and the fact that Democrats in the legislature continue to kick the can down the road should tell you all you need to know about their commitment to finding a meaningful solution.”