Speaker Carl Heastie, Codes Committee Chair Jeffrey Dinowitz and Housing Committee Chair Steven Cymbrowitz today announced that the Assembly will pass critical legislation that will extend the residential and commercial eviction and foreclosure moratoriums for those facing a financial hardship, as well as the Tenant Safe Harbor Act, until January 15, 2022. The legislation will also help tenants and landlords get the rental relief they need through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) and State Supplemental Rental Assistance Fund.
“Families and small businesses across the state are still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis,” Speaker Heastie said. “By extending the eviction and foreclosure moratoriums for those suffering financial hardship, we will give New Yorkers the peace of mind that they can stay in their homes while they go through the process of getting rental assistance – either through ERAP or the State Supplemental Rental Assistance Fund. The Assembly Majority will continue working to help families and small businesses recover and get back on their feet.”
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Assembly Majority has been committed to protecting struggling families and businesses from eviction and getting them the assistance and protections they need during this global health and economic crisis,” Assemblymember Dinowitz said. “Extending the residential and commercial eviction and foreclosure moratoriums will give New Yorkers the opportunity to get the rental assistance they need to stay safe and stay in their homes. We cannot and will not allow mass evictions that put people on the streets in the midst of a pandemic. This is a health issue as much as an economic issue.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on so many of our state's tenants and small landlords, leaving them unable to pay rent and monthly expenses and threatening their ability to remain in their homes and apartments,” Assemblymember Cymbrowitz said. “The legislation we pass today will extend the eviction and foreclosure moratoriums, and give New Yorkers the ability to pay their rental or mortgage arrears, stay in their homes, and give them the ability to recover from this health and economic crisis.”
“New York families that are struggling financially and facing eviction deserve to have someone on their side to help them avoid eviction and stay in their homes,” Assemblymember Latoya Joyner said. “The Assembly Majority will keep working to make sure that New Yorkers are not left out in the cold because of financial hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The legislation would extend until January 15, 2022 the residential and small business commercial eviction and mortgage and tax foreclosure moratoria for people facing these hardships, which were set to expire August 31. It would also extend until January 15, 2022 the Tenant Safe Harbor Act, which allowed tenants to present a financial hardship defense in court for nonpayment and reduced payments during an existing eviction proceeding. The coverage period for the Tenant Safe Harbor Act defense extended by this bill expired on June 24 when the declared state disaster emergency was lifted.
Eviction & Foreclosure Moratorium
In addition to extending the deadlines, today’s legislation addresses a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling which deemed the existing law’s “self-attestation” standard for hardship unconstitutional. The bill provides a mechanism for landlords to challenge a tenant’s hardship declaration in court. In that challenge, the landlord may seek to prove that the hardship claim is not valid. If the hardship claim is upheld, the court would be required to direct parties to file an application for assistance with ERAP or a similar local housing aid program.
Similarly, the law would be amended to allow a mortgage lender or private tax lien holder to be in heard in court if they have a good faith belief that a homeowner’s financial hardship claim is not valid.
The small business eviction moratorium for qualifying businesses with a financial hardship would also be extended to January 15, 2022. The original moratorium was enacted in March as the COVID-19 Emergency Protect Our Small Business Act of 2021 and was expanded in May to include small businesses of up to 100 employees.
Emergency Rental Assistance Program
Currently, 176,000 ERAP applications have been filed, and more than $230 million in payments have been made to over 15,000 households. New York is on track to obligate the federally required 65 percent of the first round of rental assistance by the end of September. Today’s legislation will address implementation issues, to help ensure New Yorkers receive maximum relief and are able to stay in their homes.
The localities of the City of Rochester, Monroe County, Onondaga County, the Town of Hempstead, the Town of Oyster Bay, the Town of Islip and the City of Yonkers opted to administer their own rental assistance programs. This bill would allow residents of these localities to apply to the state ERAP program if the locality has certified they have exhausted their federal emergency rental assistance funds. The locality would also be required to notify eligible applicants that were denied because of exhausted funding that they may be eligible to apply for ERAP, provide the applicant with information on how to apply and also post that information on their website. Additionally, the legislation would provide the tenant protections built into ERAP to applicants seeking assistance from a local program, as well as allowing homeowners to seek an eviction where the tenant intentionally causes significant damage to the property. It also dedicates $25 million to provide legal counsel for tenants unable to afford counsel in eviction proceedings.
Earlier this year, the Assembly held a hearing to examine the application process and implementation of the ERAP.
State Supplemental Rental Assistance
Today’s legislation would provide an increase in funding for State Supplemental Rental Assistance by $150 million, bringing the total for the program to $250 million. This funding assists homeowners whose tenants are either above the 80 percent AMI threshold set by ERAP or have abandoned the residence or not cooperated with the requirements of the program. It would allow tenants between 80 and 100 percent AMI to apply for 45 days and then up to 120 percent AMI after that. It would also allow landlords whose tenants have left the unit to apply for assistance on their own, prioritizing landlords with 20 or fewer units for the first 45 days after the application period opens.