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Landlord-Tenant Negotiations in a Time of Moratoria

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Nearing the end of October and what would be for many landlords payday, Governor Cuomo’s eviction moratoria remains in full effect. Set to end at the start of next year, these moratoria are affecting landlord-tenant relations in notable and novel ways. For one, tenants and landlords, now more conscious of their shared interest in continued tenancy, are working together to adapt to COVID-19. As courts stall, tenants, landlords and even lenders have become more likely to reach out of court agreements. In doing so, all parties are working to preserve agreements down the chain of tenancy–from lender to landlord and landlord to tenant–to prevent evictions and foreclosures from piling up for next year.

Though negotiations reassessing rent and property payment plans may at first seem to indicate contentious circumstances, legal experts have painted a different picture. Cuomo’s response to COVID-19 has forced all parties to be flexible in hopes of preserving, or at least returning to, steady revenue, paid tenancy and property ownership. This is indeed in line with Cuomo’s intention of protecting tenants’ “fundamental stability” in this time of crisis. Moratoria have given tenants the advantageous position of having the time and leverage to negotiate new agreements and save their leases. As such, those for whom COVID-19 has made paying rent a challenge are strongly incentivized to reach agreements before the end of the year, as their advantageous position will rapidly vacate when moratoria end.

On the other side of the table, commercial and residential landlords and lenders–whose income and property ownership are also in jeopardy–are equally incentivized to negotiate. Lenders with reserves to maintain and landlords with loans to pay realize that if unpaying tenants remain in house until the end of the year–and perhaps even longer–they may not be able to pay their own dues. Accordingly they have opted to negotiate short-term concessions for long-term stability. Some have reached partial payment agreements in which tenants commit to paying a portion of the rent each month of the moratorium period and the rest of it on payment plans starting next year. And in return, some of these tenants have signed lease extensions and made other guarantees such as interest on delayed payments.

All in all, these arrangements signal the tight position COVID-19 has placed tenants, landlords and lenders in. However, landlords and lenders who can afford to wait out these moratoria will likely pursue litigation against holdover tenants who have not managed to bounce back from the financial hardship so many have encountered this year. Come January, they will likely flood courts with eviction and foreclosure cases going back to early this year. As to the unprecedented problems this may pose for an already backlogged landlord-tenant court system, legal experts have said we will simply have to wait and see. However, experts do predict that in any case we will likely ease back into a fully functioning system, perhaps by extending moratoria further into 2021. Until then, the state of landlord-tenant and lender-landlord relations will continue to adapt to these unprecedented circumstances.

 

Sources:

[1] – McIntyre, Andrew, “3 Things To Watch As NY Eviction Moratoria Are Extended,” Law 360, 26 Oct. 2020, https://www.law360.com/realestate/articles/1322632/3-things-to-watch-as-ny-eviction-moratoria-are-extended?nl_pk=d8aa2548-2b0a-4e52-802b-f7613a90c4e4&secondary_source=truncated&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=realestate, accessed 28 Oct. 2020.

[2] – Shaver, Les, “Coronavirus Leads to Tough Landlord-Tenant Negotiations,” GlobeSt.com, 2 Apr. 2020, https://www.law360.com/realestate/articles/1322632/3-things-to-watch-as-ny-eviction-moratoria-are-extended?nl_pk=d8aa2548-2b0a-4e52-802b-f7613a90c4e4&secondary_source=truncated&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=realestate, accessed 28 Oct. 2020.

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