Hardship Declaration Protects Tenants, Homeowners, and Small Landlords through May 1
After New York State’s previous eviction moratorium technically ended on September 30, 2020, two orders signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo extended it through January 1, 2021. The New York State Legislature saw the need for further protections and passed the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act during a special session on December 28, 2020, which was subsequently signed by the governor. It suspends most of eviction and foreclosure court proceedings until February 26, 2021 to give tenants, home owners, and small landlords (buildings with 10 or less units) time to fill out the hardship declaration form that will protect them from eviction or foreclosure through May 1, 2021.
In December, prior to the legislation’s passing, Senator Julia Salazar stated, “There is a unanimous consensus in the legislature that we must do something to make sure the moratorium is extended. What we want is more than just another short-term extension of what we feel is an inadequate moratorium.”
“We did see a significant increase of evictions happening and in many cases it seemed to be happening where the tenant had some hardship and they were nonetheless evicted and we expected that to accelerate once courts became more functional,” said Senator Brian Kavanagh, the sponsor of NY Senate Bill S9114. This bill and its Assembly counterpart (A11181) are the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act.
Unlike the previous moratorium, in order to receive eviction or foreclosure protection through May 1, 2021 a declaration of hardship form must be filled out. Hardship covers financial hardship (reduction in income, increase in expenses related to COVID-19 or having to do essential work, or moving) and health hardship: disability, or health conditions that increase susceptibility to COVID-19 during a move. Here are the Hardship Declaration Form (English), Hardship Declaration Form (Spanish), and the Hardship Declaration Form (all languages available by January 11). This form is to be presented to your landlord or landlord’s agent to prevent eviction. If the landlord initiates a case they are required to give the tenant this form to fill out (if the tenant doesn’t return the form they can proceed to court with an affidavit). If you have a pending eviction, bring the form to your borough’s housing court. If there is already a warrant for eviction, present the form to a marshal.
The Hardship Declaration has protections to cover multiple income levels. “Any process that tries to apply a single rule would screen out people experiencing a genuine hardship. We don’t want people to get evicted simply because their rent is a little higher and their income is higher. These protections are not just for low-income people, they’re for middle-class people and working people,” said Kavanagh in an interview with Tim Williams for WCNY’s The Capital Pressroom on December 29, 2020.
The moratorium doesn’t cancel rent. The purpose of the moratorium is to keep people in their homes for their safety and the safety of the community. Federal rent relief from the recently passed COVID-19 relief package is coming that will ease some of the rent debt. “We expect that New York State will get $1.3B out of [it]. That is not enough to cover the rent, but it might be as much as half or one third of all unpaid rent in the state. That’s a big step forward, we’ll obviously need another round of relief if we’re going to dig ourselves entirely out of this crisis,” said Kavanagh.
If you are a rent stabilized or rent controlled tenant and believe you are being harassed by your landlord, you can file a complaint with HCR’s Tenant Protection Unit at: firstname.lastname@example.org or Office of Rent Administration at: https://hcr.ny.gov/harassment
Non rent stabilized tenants can report harassment to the Attorney General’s office: NYSOAG TH Form