It would be harder for landlords to put tenants out on the street under a bill the state legislature is set to pass Monday.
The “COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act” would allow tenants to fill out a simple form declaring financial hardship caused by the pandemic in order to avoid eviction until May 1 — a move aimed at addressing one of the main crises during the outbreak.
Tenants can submit the form to their landlord or to court to prevent an eviction from being filed, or to suspend an eviction that’s already underway. They’ll get at least two months to fill out the forms.
The bill builds on the state’s “Tenant Safe Harbor Act” — passed over the summer after unemployment began to skyrocket — which allows tenants facing financial hardship to avoid eviction but still requires them to show up in court if a landlord wants to kick them out. That bill was set to last for the duration of the state of emergency in New York.
The state Assembly and Senate are holding a rare end-of-year special session Monday, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in a Sunday statement.
Along with the eviction moratorium, the new legislation would bar foreclosures and tax lien sales for property owners, including small landlords who rent out 10 or fewer units. The legislation also includes measures aimed at keeping property owners’ credit from suffering if they can’t make mortgage payments, and automatically renews certain homeowner benefits for seniors and disabled people.
“We are in an unprecedented situation where tens of thousands of people are concerned about evictions in the middle of winter during the pandemic,” Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx), the prime sponsor of the Assembly version of the bill, told the Daily News.
“We want to prevent people from being put out in the street,” he added. “It’s that simple.”
Under the legislation, criteria for avoiding eviction include loss of income, increased health- or childcare expenses and inability to find new work.
“It takes away from the tenant the obligation or onus of proving the hardship [in court],” Dinowitz said, noting those who fill out a “Hardship Declaration Form” face legal penalties if they lie.
Spokespersons for Gov. Cuomo ignored requests for comment on the bill.
A pro-landlord group decried the legislation.
“A blanket eviction moratorium without the requirement of proving economic hardship would effectively encourage thousands of employed tenants — many ironically using their apartments as their workplace — not to pay rent, and will push the city off the cliff of bankruptcy,” the Rent Stabilization Association, which reps over 25,000 Big Apple landlords, said in a statement.
The legislation comes as President Trump and Congress remain in a stalemate over a COVID relief package including a nationwide eviction moratorium set to expire this Thursday.