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New eviction legislation puts landlords in a bind

(Credit: NY State Senate)

New York lawmakers have reached a deal to pass a bill that would extend an eviction moratorium until May 1, and also help protect small property owners from mortgage foreclosures, Democrat & Chronicle reported. Legislative leaders will convene a special session today to pass the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act, which Governor Cuomo intends to sign into law.

  • Dig Deeper: The new legislation will limit evictions arising from both holdover and non-payment. Tenants could receive protection from eviction by filing a hardship declaration with their landlord, rather than making an affidavit in court. Ongoing eviction proceedings would be stayed, and tenants could petition to remove default judgments, TRD noted.
  • What this means: The bill would create a Standardized Hardship Declaration Form that tenants can submit to their landlord or court to prevent or halt an eviction if they have a financial hardship related to COVID that prevents them from paying their rent in full or if they do not have the wherewithal to move.
  • Modest landlord protections: For those who own 10 or fewer dwelling units, the law would prevent foreclosures and tax lien sales on their residential properties. Property owners would also be to access protections by filing their own hardship waivers with their mortgage lender, local assessor or court. The owner would need to declare, under penalty of perjury, that they facing a financial hardship “that prevents them from paying their mortgage or property taxes because of lost income, including reduction in rent collections; increased expenses; or the inability to obtain meaningful employment,” the state Senate said.
  • Be Smart: Sherwin Belkin, a partner at Belkin Burden Goldman, explained the major flaw with the legislation: He told TRD that it erodes due process rights for landlords by not requiring an affidavit from renters in order to receive protection. Tenants also do not have to provide any evidence to support the hardship claim. The existing legislation, the Tenant Safe Harbor Act, “while not perfect, tried to strike a balance” between the rights and needs of both property owners and tenants, Belkin said. “This bill does not even pretend to try to strike a balance.” [Democrat&Chronicle+TRD+LegislativeText+PressRelease]

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