Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday signed bills that will extend New York’s eviction moratorium through Jan. 15 and expand the state’s rental assistance program.
In this new eviction moratorium bill, lawmakers created a path for landlords to challenge whether tenants have truly been impacted by the pandemic in court.
This was not in the previous eviction moratorium bill and was one of the reasons part of it was struck down by the Supreme Court in August.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins said she believes this new bill is stronger.
“We took pains to make sure to address the area that was struck down by the Supreme Court in terms of making sure that landlords have an opportunity to at least have their say and deal with serious, you know tenant attestation,” Stewart-Cousins said. “So we believe we are on solid ground.”
Although lawmakers opened the door to allowing some of these claims to be challenged in court, they also set aside $25 million for tenants to use for legal services.
Ellen Davidson, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society, said the eviction process can at times move quickly so it could be helpful for tenants to have an attorney guide them through these proceedings.
“Sometimes the tenant has all the proof possible, but it's in the wrong form and they can't figure out how to get the evidence in the right form so that the court will notice it,” Davidson explained. “So having an attorney who understands the rules and how to get evidence in is so important.”
Davidson said this fund will also help tenants navigate the sometimes complicated Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
“I talk to tenants all the time from across the state who have been navigating these complicated tenant protections, without the help of attorneys,” Davidson said. “Legal services attorneys outside of New York City are working very hard, but they have so many less resources and tenants just don't get the help.”
But many landlord groups say this bill still leaves them with very little recourse.
The Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 small landlords and building managers, say they will be filing a motion to block the new eviction moratorium law after Labor Day.
State Sen. Pam Helming, along with numerous other Republicans, blasted the eviction moratorium, saying landlords have gone almost two years without being paid rent.
“I want to share with people one small property owner who offered his perspective. This is what he had to say,” Helming said. "'For a lot of us, property isn't an investment, it's our actual home. .. But in reality, our lives have turned upside down to the point where home doesn't even feel like home anymore. I'm at the point where I don't even want the money anymore. I just want my home back.’”
The Rent Stabilization Association said they will be asking the courts to uphold last month’s Supreme Court’s ruling.