Gov. Hochul calls for special session to protect tenants and landlords from ‘eviction crisis’

Around New York State

(WIVB) — Tenants across the United States are reeling from the Supreme Court’s rejection of the federal moratorium on tenant evictions that was supposed to extend into October. While the decision has little effect on New York, Governor Kathy Hochul is calling on lawmakers to extend the state’s moratorium.

Time is about to run out for thousands of New York renters when the state moratorium on evictions, which was extended last year, runs out at the end of the month. Hochul, a Democrat, is calling for a special session of the state legislature and late this afternoon Republicans also called for immediate action.

New York has set aside more than $2.5 billion to help resolve the rental crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The law says once a tenant files the application for rent relief, it is supposed to freeze any eviction proceedings.

“Anyone who has applied and qualifies for the rental assistance should have no fear of being removed from their home for a solid year. So the eviction moratorium that is expiring shortly will have no bearing on these individuals,” said Governor Hochul.

But to receive assistance through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), tenants are required to work with their landlords.

“It is important for housing providers who have not been able to collect rent now for many months, and it is important for tenants who are experiencing a significant loss of housing stability,” Grace Andriette of Neighborhood Legal Services said.

Neighborhood Legal Services is one of the agencies that is helping tenants apply for rental assistance, but supervising attorney Grace Andriette points out, while the application might freeze an eviction momentarily, a tenant is not completely immune from eviction.

“Of course if the tenant is causing damage to the premises or violating the lease in a significant way, those may be the grounds for eviction, even when the emergency assistance payments are made,” added Andriette.

But only a fraction of the emergency rental funds has actually been doled out and state lawmakers are worried an eviction crisis could be looming when the state moratorium expires next week.

Governor Hochul is vowing to do whatever it takes to get the money out.

New York’s eviction moratorium protects tenants, but a large number of landlords are also in trouble because they are unable to pay their bills, such as mortgage payments and property taxes — so there is also a pause on foreclosures.

In a statement, Thursday afternoon Governor Hochul called the Supreme Court’s decision “appalling and insensitive.”

“I am very disappointed in the Supreme Court’s appalling and insensitive ruling that eliminates a key line of defense for tenants facing housing insecurity during the ongoing pandemic, and we are exploring all options to further protect New Yorkers from eviction, including with the legislative leaders,” said Hochul.

“It is critical that New Yorkers know that anyone who applies to the rent relief program will automatically be protected from eviction while their application is pending. More than $800 million has already been already disbursed or is now ready for landlords to accept on behalf of their tenants. More than $1 billion remains available for relief and resources are available through community organizations to help New Yorkers apply, receive eviction protection, and pay their rent. New Yorkers should complete and submit their applications immediately. This is urgent.”

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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.

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