New York State and the Tenant Safe Harbor Act
We hope everyone is doing well and staying safe as the ongoing COVID‑19 crisis continues.
On June 30, 2020, New York Governor signed the “Tenant Safe Harbor Act” (a.k.a. the “Hoylman Bill”) into law. This law not only extends the current eviction moratorium for New Yorkers, but it strengthens it as well.
The Tenant Safe Harbor Act prevents courts from issuing warrants of eviction or judgments of possession under certain circumstances. The court cannot issue a warrant or judgment if:
- it would be for non-payment of rent that accrued or came due during the COVID‑19 period, and
- it would be against a residential tenant or lawful occupant who has suffered a financial hardship during the “COVID‑19 covered period.”
Consequently, the Tenant Safe Harbor Act does not apply to: residential tenants who have not suffered financial hardships during the COVID‑19 period; commercial tenants; eviction for reasons other than non-payment of rent; eviction for non-payment of rent that came due before the “COVID‑19 covered period”; and so on.
The Tenant Safe Harbor Act defines the “COVID-19 covered period” as the time from March 7, 2020, until a time to be determined, when all the provisions restricting businesses, accommodations, and non-essential gatherings, as outlined in Governor Cuomo’s previous executive orders, come to an end in the county of the tenant’s residence.
The Tenant Safe Harbor Act also allows a tenant to raise financial hardship as a defense in a summary proceeding. However, if a tenant fails to establish financial hardship during the COVID‑19 covered period then, in addition to being subject to a warrant of eviction or judgment of possession, the tenant would be responsible for a money judgment.
The Tenant Safe Harbor Act outlines four factors the court must consider in determining whether a tenant’s claim of financial hardship is meritorious:
- the tenant's income prior to the COVID‑19 covered period;
- the tenant's income during the COVID‑19 covered period;
- the tenant's liquid assets; and
- the tenant's eligibility for and receipt of benefits such as: cash assistance, supplemental nutrition assistance program, supplemental security income, the New York State disability program, the home energy assistance program, and unemployment insurance or benefits under state or federal law.
Despite the above, this law does permit courts to award landlords money judgments. In other words, even though a court cannot evict certain tenants who are experiencing financial hardship, the court can still enter a money judgment in favor of the landlord for rent due during the COVID-19 covered period.
Moreover, the Tenant Safe Harbor Act does not affect a landlord’s ability to start non-payment proceedings against tenant who have not been affected by COVID‑19 as of July 6, 2020.
If you are concerned regarding how the Tenant Safe Harbor Act law affects you, we at Griffin Alexander, P.C., can help. Do not hesitate to contact us with any of your concerns.
Stay strong, safe, and healthy,
Griffin Alexander, P.C.
The information in this Client Alert is solely for information purposes. This Client Alert is not legal advice and is not to be acted on as such. It does not establish attorney-client privilege or an attorney-client relationship. The protection of a client-lawyer relationship does not exist with respect to the nonlegal services. The information presented herein is not legal advice, it may not be applicable in all circumstances, and it should not be acted upon without legal advice tailored to specific situations. The information presented herein is subject to change without notice. Every legal matter is different: Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.
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