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Updates on Residential Housing: Evictions Paused Until October, but Uncertainty Persists

Coronavirus, Legal Developments, NYC, Real Estate Developments

The New York Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks extended a statewide pause on the execution of residential evictions to October 1. The measure provides some relief to those worried about losing their residence during the pandemic. However, the size and complexity of the problem demands more permanent guidance from Albany as well as Washington.

Marks’ memo also includes mandatory conferences for judges to address the Tenant Safe Harbor Act and other pandemic-related legislation. The act, signed on June 30, prevents the issuing of warrants of eviction for tenants or other lawful occupants who have suffered “financial hardship related to COVID-19.” Housing courts need to agree on how “financial hardship” will be interpreted. [1]

Even in a more prosperous economy, New Yorkers have had difficulties navigating the city’s colossal real estate market with rising rents. The standard financial advice for renters is to spend less than 30% of income on rent to avoid being “rent-burdened.” This standard is much more difficult to achieve in a stagnant New York economy. Of course, those who have lost their jobs or their businesses may be unable to pay rent and can demonstrate “financial hardship.” However, there are other less obvious effects of the pandemic that have weakened the ability to pay, such as increased medical expenses, children or family members that previously contributed to rent facing unemployment, or renters working on commission seeing pay cuts from the lack of consumer demand.

To assist renters, the city launched a “Tenant Resource Portal” on August 10 in twelve languages. The portal asks a number of questions to renters concerned about a possible eviction, then directs them to the resources available that are relevant to their situation.

Furthermore, many of the financial problems facing renters are also felt by landlords. Many argue that eviction relief is not enough, since missed rent payments can lead to difficulties in paying mortgages and property taxes. Policies in conversation include mortgage relief and increased access to forbearance. The New York City Advisory Commission on Property Tax Reform was expected to release a comprehensive report this year, but their meetings have been cancelled as the pandemic has forced the city to prioritize urgent concerns over long term policies. [2]

For a brief summary on the problems facing the NYC property tax system, see this Youtube video from Bloomberg Law.

[1] Wester, J. (August 2020) New York Courts Extend Freeze on Execution of Residential Evictions Until October from Law.com https://www.law.com/newyorklawjournal/2020/08/12/new-york-courts-extend-freeze-on-execution-of-residential-evictions-until-october/ Accessed August 13 2020

[2] Herzfeld, J. (August 2020) Pandemic Disruption Waylays NYC Property Tax Reform Project from Bloomberg Tax https://news.bloombergtax.com/daily-tax-report/pandemic-disruption-waylays-nyc-property-tax-reform-project Accessed August 13 2020

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