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The Eviction Orders Continue

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In the NYC court system, Governor Cuomo’s string of eviction related executive orders have sought to adapt court proceedings to the realities of an unprecedented time. On the night of the election, the string continues. Executive Order No. 202.72, “Continuing Temporary Suspension and Modification of Laws Relating to the Disaster Emergency (COVID),” extends a previous order pertaining to tenant responses, set to expire election day. E.O. No. 202.72 issues a pause on default judgements pertaining to pending nonpayment cases. A default judgement allows a case to proceed and be decided upon without response from a notified defendant. Recognizing a likelihood for a high incidence of this, the order gives tenants a 60 day grace period (as opposed to the usual 10 day window) to respond. 

E.O. No. 202.72, according to legal experts and tenant advocates, comes at time when it is highly needed. Only about 15% of the 17,388 residential nonpayment cases filed since June 22 (when courts began accepting filings) have been answered. [1] This data indicates that “the vast majority of tenants sued since June,” are at risk of eviction following a default judgement. [1] E.O. No. 202.72 aims to curb this risk for the approximate 14,800 heads of household to which it may apply.

Experts reason that the lack of response is a result of the confusion which has plagued court proceedings since social distancing measures froze the system. However, they also reason that some of the confusion stems from Cuomo’s executive orders as well. [2] Tenants who mistakenly believe that cases cannot advance against them in light of the moratoria may fail to respond to a case in time. Although actual evictions are on hold, filings for nonpayment complaints are open; and a failure to respond significantly affects the likelihood of successfully defending one’s case.

However, for those who miss their deadline, a failure to respond does not necessarily mean that one’s case is over. Although eviction reversals are rare, newly passed, pandemic-specific federal and state level orders may increase the likelihood of successfully litigating motions to vacate default judgements. It should be noted, however, that these filings are difficult as well as time and resource consuming. As such, tenants will likely require the assistance of an attorney. To avoid this difficult process, experts and advocates are urging tenants to respond as soon as possible, regardless of the pauses in place. 

Looking forward, the order appears to signal changes in the way the governor’s office will be handling pandemic-specific rent problems. Specifically, it appears that Cuomo is beginning to cede back administrative control over proceedings to the courts themselves. This is best exhibited in the limitations of the order. The order has dialed back the range of applicability from previous orders, as it indicates that the grace period will apply only to cases filed before Nov. 3rd. Those facing cases filed after Nov. 3 will be held to the standard 10 day response period. Experts have suggested that this means that the monthly stream of moratoria and holds are coming to a close and that a process for a slow and steady return to normal is in the works. [1]

To respond to a case filed against you, you can call your respective court’s number below. For assistance, call 311 and ask for the tenant helpline.

    • Manhattan: 646-386-5505
    • Bronx: 718-466-3000
    • Brooklyn: 347-404-9201
    • Queens: 718-262-7300
    • Staten Island: 718-676-8455

Sources:

[1] – Whitford, Emma, “NYC Tenant Attys Urge State, Courts To Prevent Default Spike,” Law 360, 30 Oct. 2020, https://www.law360.com/newyork/articles/1324363/nyc-tenant-attys-urge-state-courts-to-prevent-default-spike, accessed 17 Nov. 2020. 

[2] – Spivack, Caroline, “In the Midst of All This, Cuomo Put Out Another Eviction Order,” Curbed, 4 Nov. 2020, https://www.curbed.com/2020/11/nyc-cuomo-eviction-order-election-night.html, accessed 17 Nov. 2020.

[3] – Cuomo, Andrew, “No. 202.72: Continuing Temporary Suspension and Modification of Laws Relating to the Disaster Emergency,” 3 Nov. 2020.    

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