On December 28, 2020, the New York State Legislature passed the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 (CEEFPA) with the stated intention of protecting the public health, safety, and morals of New Yorkers from the dangers of the COVID-19 and to avoid as many evictions as possible for those people experiencing financial hardships and for those who are unable to move due to an increased risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.
CEEFPA stays all pending residential eviction proceedings for sixty (60) days and provides a further stay through May 1, 2021, to those tenants who provide their landlord (or an agent of their landlord) a “Hardship Declaration” declaring that they have been negatively impacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new law affects pending eviction proceedings but also adds additional procedural requirements when commencing new eviction proceedings.
WHAT TYPES OF ACTIONS ARE COVERED BY CEEFPA?
CEEFPA applies to residential eviction proceedings including summary proceedings brought in housing court or any other judicial or administrative proceeding to recover possession of real property relating to a residential dwelling unit. This includes both non-payment and holdover proceedings.
HOW DOES CEEFPA AFFECT EVICTION PROCEEDINGS THAT ARE CURRENTLY PENDING?
Effective December 28, 2020, all pending residential eviction proceedings are stayed for sixty (60) days. In addition, a tenant that provides a “Hardship Declaration” to his landlord, an agent of the landlord, or to the court cannot be evicted until at least May 1, 2021 in almost every circumstance.
WHAT IS A “HARDSHIP DECLARATION?”
A Hardship Declaration is a written statement, in which a tenant declares an inability to meet financial obligations or obtain alternative suitable permanent housing because of financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic.
WHO MAY FILL OUT A “HARDSHIP DECLARATION”?
A Hardship Declaration” can be provided by a tenant, lawful occupant, or another person responsible for paying rent, use and occupancy, or any other financial obligation under a lease or tenancy agreement
WHAT QUALIFIES AS “FINANCIAL HARDSHIP CAUSED BY COVID-19″?
- Increase in necessary out-of-pocket expenses related to performing essential work or related to health impacts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Being negatively affected to obtain meaningful employment or earn income or an increase in necessary out-of-pocket expenses due to childcare responsibilities or responsibilities to care for an elderly, disabled, or sick family member during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Moving expenses and difficulty securing alternative housing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Other circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affecting the ability to obtain meaningful employment or earn income.
- Lost household income or increased expenses, and public assistance, including unemployment insurance, pandemic unemployment assistance, disability insurance, or paid family leave, which does not fully make up for my loss of household income or increased expenses.
- Vacating the premises and moving into new permanent housing would pose a significant health risk.
- Being over the age of sixty-five, having a disability, or have an underlying medical condition, which may include but is not limited to being immunocompromised.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I RECEIVE A HARDSHIP DECLARATION FROM MY TENANT?
Immediately advise your attorneys of its receipt and provide a copy to your attorney. The failure to advise your attorney of your receipt of the “Hardship Declaration” can negatively affect a pending or future eviction proceeding including the dismissal of the proceeding.
CAN I COMMENCE A NEW EVICTION PROCEEDING AGAINST A TENANT THAT JUST SENT ME A HARDSHIP DECLARATION?
No. If there is no pending eviction proceeding and a tenant provides a hardship declaration to the landlord, an eviction proceeding against the tenant cannot be commenced until at least May 1, 2021.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I RECEIVE A HARDSHIP DECLARATION FROM A TENANT THAT I CURRENTLY HAVE AN EVICTION PROCEEDING WITH?
In any eviction proceeding in which an eviction warrant has not been issued, the eviction proceeding will be stayed until at least May 1, 2021.
ARE THERE ANY EVICTION PROCEEDINGS WHERE CEEFPA IS NOT APPLICABLE?
Yes. CEEFPA does not apply if the tenant is persistently and unreasonably engaging in behavior that substantially infringes on the use and enjoyment of other tenants or occupants or causes a substantial safety hazard to others. There are however strict procedural requirements that the court will impose to go forward with this type of case, and you should consult an attorney before doing so.
WHAT REMEDIES DO I HAVE AGAINST NON-PAYING TENANTS?
All predicate notices in both non-payment and holdover proceedings may still be served so long as they are accompanied by the requisite hardship notices, soon to be published by the Court.
CEEFPA does not affect a landlord’s ability to sue tenants in plenary actions for rent in Civil and Supreme Court. As a result, Landlords are urged to consider such actions in order to obtain money judgments for past due rent. Kucker Marino Winiarsky & Bittens, LLP (“KMWB”) has created a specific practice group of attorneys to focus on these types of actions on behalf of its landlord clients. Please contact your KMWB attorney to get information about how our new practice group can help you.