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Thursday 28 January 2021
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Tenants, Homeowners Catch a Break Till May

Staff reports

Tenants and homeowners who have endured financial hardships related to COVID-19 are protected for a while longer from eviction or foreclosure.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Dec. 28 signed the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020, which puts a moratorium through May 1, 2021 on residential evictions and foreclosure proceedings.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic began, we asked New Yorkers to protect each other by staying at home,” the governor said in a news release announcing the legislation. “As we fight our way through the marathon this pandemic has become, we need to make sure New Yorkers still have homes to provide that protection.”

The act (Senate bill S.9114 and Assembly bill A. 11181) also prevents credit discrimination and negative credit reporting related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also extends the Senior Citizens’ Homeowner Exemption and Disabled Homeowner Exemption from 2020 to 2021.

“Ensuring our families and children have a safe place to call home during this pandemic is essential,” Mayor Lovely Warren said in a separate news release. “Earlier this month, our local delegation and I agreed that protecting renters and homeowners was critical. Now, we will continue our work to recover together from this awful disease and its effects on our city.”

The legislation addresses five areas:

  • Residential evictions: Tenants must submit a hardship declaration, or a document explaining the source of the hardship, to prevent evictions. Landlords can evict tenants that are creating safety or health hazards for other tenants, and those tenants who do not submit hardship declarations.
  • Residential foreclosure proceedings: Homeowners and small landlords who own 10 or fewer residential dwellings can file hardship declarations with their mortgage lender, other foreclosing party or a court that would prevent a foreclosure.
  • Tax lien sales: Local governments can’t conduct a tax lien sale or a tax foreclosure until at least May 1, 2021. Payments due to the locality are still due.
  • Credit discrimination and negative credit reporting: Lending institutions are prohibited from discriminating against a property owner seeking credit because the property owner has been granted a stay of mortgage foreclosure proceedings, tax foreclosure proceedings or tax lien sales. Lenders also are prohibited from discriminating because the owner is in arrears and has filed a hardship declaration with the lender.
  • Senior citizens’ homeowner exemption and disabled homeowner exemption: Local governments are required to carry over the exemptions from the 2020 assessment roll to the 2021 assessment roll at the same levels. They are also required to provide renewal applications for anyone who may be eligible for a larger exemption in 2021. Localities can also set procedures by which assessors can require renewal applications from people who the assessors believe may no longer be eligible for an exemption in 2021. Recipients of the exemption do not have to file renewal applications in person.

Tenants and homeowners can get a form to declare a hardship from their state legislator. Assembly members can be found at nyassembly.gov/mem/search/. Senate members can be located at www.nysenate.gov/find-my-senator.

Cuomo first announced a state moratorium on residential and commercial evictions on March 20 to ensure no tenant was evicted during the height of the public health emergency. He signed the Tenant Safe Harbor Act on June 30, which became effective immediately. Additional legislation provided financial assistance to residential renters and landlords. Previous Executive Orders have prohibited charges or fees for late rent payments, and tenants facing financial hardship can still use their security deposit as payment and repay their security deposit over time.

On Sept. 28, Cuomo announced the state’s Tenant Safe Harbor Act would be extended and expanded until Jan. 1, 2021 to protect additional residential tenants from eviction if they are suffering financial hardship during the COVID-19 emergency. The Executive Order extends the protections of the Tenant Safe Harbor Act to eviction warrants that existed prior to the start of the pandemic, and those who are facing other than nonpayment evictions but suffering the same hardship.