BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)– Landlords are praying for some kind of relief from the COVID-19 pandemic, and tenants are bracing for an onslaught of evictions.

There has been a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures in New York since the start of the pandemic. This has meant landlords have been severely hampered trying to collect rent for almost a year and paying the mortgage has been a tough proposition, too.

Western New York has been operating under a statewide pause order for nearly a year, closing local courts to evictions against tenants and bank foreclosures against landlords.

The latest state law extends that moratorium until May 1, but tenants have to show proof they are unable to pay the rent.

“Which indicates either they have experienced a financial hardship, or moving would create a health-related hardship.”

Grace Andriette, Neighborhood Legal Services

The document is called a Hardship Declaration and a local coalition, Housing Justice for All, is going to be circulating door hangers to help renters understand what they have to do to avoid eviction.

“Here is a piece of literature, ‘Housing Justice for All,’ it is going from door-to-door, and we want to make sure that people know how to fill out this form which will automatically send notice to their landlord and the court to show that folks are eligible for protection.”

Harper Bishop, PUSH Buffalo

The Hardship Declaration is supposed to freeze most tenant evictions until May 1, but a growing number of landlords, unable to collect rent for a year are not waiting.

“This has gone on now for almost eleven months now, and you have people who have not been able to pay mortgages. They have used every nickel of reserves that they have,” said landlord attorney Loran Bommer.

Some landlords have resorted to what is known as “self-help,” illegally putting tenants out themselves.

“Who threaten tenants and use that as a strategy for getting tenants to move, or take any other action, you know, shutting off utilities, changing locks and so forth.”

Grace Andriette, Neighborhood Legal Services

Andriette says those landlords who remove tenants illegally, can be charged with misdemeanors.

Attorney Loran Bommer told us, there is such a backlog of eviction cases, he believes it would take close to a year to get through them if they started today.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here. To submit a Call 4 Action, click here.