SCOTUS Halts Self-Certified Hardship Declarations

On Thursday, August 12, 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) put a halt on a key piece of New York’s eviction moratorium under the COVID Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act (CEEFPA).

Until now, CEEFPA, currently set to expire on August 31, 2021, has, among other things, enabled tenants to unilaterally stay eviction proceedings in Housing Court by self-certifying that they had experienced a COVID-related financial hardship impacting the tenants’ ability to pay rent through the submission of a sworn hardship declaration.The effect of the submission of a hardship declaration was to immediately stay the proceeding, thus precluding a landlord from advancing the case.

But on August 12, 2021, SCOTUS enjoined enforcement of the CEEFPA self-certification scheme, holding that it “violates the Court’s longstanding teaching that ordinarily ‘no man can be a judge in his own case’ consistent with the Due Process Clause.”As SCOTUS explained, the self-certification aspect of CEEFPA impermissibly “precludes a landlord from contesting that certification and denies the landlord a hearing.”As a result, the SCOTUS decision effectively blocks the provision of the CEEFPA that allows tenants to stay eviction proceedings by the mere submission of a self-certified hardship declaration.

We note, however, that at this time, the SCOTUS ruling leaves in place tenant protections pursuant to the federal eviction moratorium reinstated by the Centers for Disease Control, as well as by the state’s Tenant Safe Harbor Act, which allows tenants to use a COVID-19 hardship defense in Housing Court proceedings to prevent evictions for rent arrears that accrued during the COVID-19 emergency, and temporarily prevents evictions of tenants whose landlords commenced nonpayment proceedings during the pandemic.Additionally, renters who applied for funds pursuant to the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program (CERAP) continue to be protected from eviction proceedings while their CERAP application is pending.

Clearly, the eviction landscape continues to shift on a near daily basis.We are continuing to closely monitor the ongoing developments in this area in furtherance of our commitment to providing top-notch legal services to our clients.To find out how the recent SCOTUS decision impacts your rights, to discuss your pending cases, or to decide whether to initiate new cases, please contact your attorneys at Kucker Marino Winiarsky & Bittens LLP.