With so many people negatively impacted by Coronavirus since March, there have been all kinds of changes in the rules and regulations around foreclosure and eviction.

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From Executive Orders issued by Governor Cuomo and President Trump to new laws being passed in the New York Legislature, it can be very confusing to know what exactly your rights are if you are behind on your mortgage or rent.

After some research, I was able to come up with a summary of what can and cannot happen related to evictions here in New York State:

  • Landlords are required to issue a written notice of past due rent. This notice must be in writing and must give at least 14 days.
  • Unlawful Evictions (sometimes called self-help evictions) is a Class A Misdemeanor. If a tenant is forcefully removed (like if the locks are changed, or the water/utilities are illegally shut off) from an apartment without a court order signed by a judge, the Tenant must be allowed to move back into the apartment and the Landlord can be held liable for civil and criminal penalties.

The New York State Tenant Safe Harbor Act

  • Courts are not allowed to issue a warrant of eviction or judgment of possession if a residential tenant that has suffered a financial hardship and fall behind on their rent during the COVID-19 crisis. This is in effect until all the restrictions on businesses, public accommodations, and nonessential gatherings are lifted.
  • Rent is NOT forgiven and a tenant is still obligated to pay.
  • Landlords are entitled to go to court and obtain a money judgment in small claims court.

There’s tidal wave of evictions looming over New York. No one should be forced onto the street during a pandemic. We have a moral obligation to do everything possible to keep New Yorkers in their homes.
-Senator Brad Hoylman

New York State Executive Orders Issued by Governor Cuomo

  • All evictions and foreclosures, residential and commercial, were suspended until September 4th. After September 4th, the rules of the Tenant Safe Harbor Act apply.
  • There are 4 separate Executive Orders: No. 202.8, No. 202.28, No. 202.48, and No. 202.57

Executive Order on Fighting the Spread of COVID-19 by Providing Assistance to Renters and Homeowners No. 13945 Issued by President Trump

  • This order directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of the Centers for Disease Control to come up with a plan to stop the spread of COVID-19. It also instructs the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to come up with a plan to help renters and homeowners prevent eviction and foreclosure. However, it doesn’t provide people any new protections.
  • This Order by the CDC institutes a temporary moratorium on all evictions, in an effort the further spread of COVID-19, until December 31st.
  • The order does not cancel rent or take away the obligation to pay.

This Order does not relieve any individual of any obligation to pay rent, make a housing payment, or comply with any other obligation that the individual may have under a tenancy, lease, or similar contract.
-Nina B. Witkofsky, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Now, this is only a quick summary of what I was able to learn over the last few days. If you are in a situation where you are behind on your rent or mortgage, there are resources that can help. Calling 211 in Western New York will get you to all types of housing-related assistance. This includes legal service providers like the WNY Law Center or the Center for Elder Law and Justice, along with Housing Agencies like the Buffalo Urban League or Housing Opportunities Made Equal.

The most important thing is to not panic. There is help out there if you need it.

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