Tenant and Homeowner Protections Extended
New York's Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act, which was scheduled to expire on May 1, 2021, has been extended to August 31. In addition, New York state recently passed legislation to distribute Emergency Rental Assistance funds to tenants who experienced financial hardship.
The extended NY COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 gives tenants who are experiencing financial hardship until August 31, 2021, before eviction proceedings can go forward against them. The only exception is if the landlord proves that the tenant is creating a nuisance. The COVID-19 Eviction Prevention Act applies to all lawful occupants, including anyone responsible for paying rent, use, and occupancy, or any other financial obligation. The Act applies whether the rental agreement is oral or in writing. It also applies if the landlord does not have a rental permit or the tenant is just renting a room. 

The moratorium is still not automatic! Tenants must still complete the New York State Hardship Declaration and give it to their landlord or the court if an eviction proceeding is pending to be protected by the Eviction Prevention Act. Tenants can complete the New York State Hardship Declaration if they lost income during the pandemic, if they have higher expenses because of COVID or other pandemic-related circumstances that negatively affected their finances. A tenant can also complete the Hardship Declaration if they cannot afford to move or if moving would put them at risk because someone in your household is over 65 or at increased risk from COVID because of a disability or other illness
Read more about the Eviction Prevention Act or download a copy of the Hardship Declaration form here: Coronavirus and the NY. State Courts - Latest AO (nycourts.gov).

The Act provides similar protections to homeowners who are struggling to pay their mortgage or property taxes as a result of the pandemic. The Act creates a separate version of the hardship declaration form for homeowners. If a homeowner completes the form, a foreclosure action or tax lien sale cannot proceed until after August 31. Hardship declarations that homeowners can submit to mortgage lenders are available on the NYcourts.gov website. The form to prevent a tax lien sale or tax foreclosure sale is available from the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance.  

NY tenants who experienced financial hardship during the pandemic may be eligible for up to 12 months of help with rental or utility arrears and three months of help with future rent payments. To apply for the funds, tenants do not have to be facing an immediate risk of eviction. Immigration status is not a factor in eligibility for the program. The program will prioritize assistance for people in vulnerable or hard-hit populations, including among others:

  • Households whose income does not exceed 50% of the area median income adjusted for household size;
  • Households who have one or more individuals who are unemployed as of the date of the  application for assistance and have not been employed for the 90 days preceding such date;
  • Survivors of domestic violence;
  • Veterans;
  • Families with pending eviction cases; and
  • Tenants whose landlords own 20 or fewer units.

As of May 7, 2021, applications for the program are only available for people living in the Town of Islip. Islip residents can call (631) 647-5683 or visit www.islipny.gov to apply. Applications for people living in other towns are anticipated to be available later in May 2021. Most Long Island residents should be able to apply through a central New York state website. Housing counselors will be available to help people who are not able to access the web portal. Landlords will also be able to apply for the funds on behalf of their tenants. We will send another update as soon as more information is available about the process to apply for the funds.

If a tenant submits an application for assistance from the ERA program, any eviction action will be "stayed" until a determination of ineligibility is made. This includes evictions based on expiration or a lease or holdover as well as nonpayment proceedings. If a landlord refuses to accept the ERA funds, tenants may be able to use that as a defense in an eviction proceeding based on non-payment of rent.

The Centers for Disease Control also issued a nationwide eviction moratorium that was scheduled to expire on June 30, 2021. A federal trial court vacated that moratorium nationwide on May 5, 2021, but stayed the ruling until at least May 16. The federal court's ruling regarding the CDC moratorium has no bearing on the separate New York state eviction moratorium. The DOJ is appealing the trial court's decision. Whether or not the CDC moratorium is ultimately reinstated, its effect in New York should be limited because of the wide scope of the New York state moratorium.

Landlords Cannot Hold Section 8 Tenants Hostage
Normally when a Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) tenant needs to move out of their current housing and into a new unit, the Public Housing Authority will require the landlord and tenant to both sign a mutual termination agreement. The agreement states, among other things, that the tenant is allowed to move out and they are current with the rent. But sometimes, a landlord refuses to sign this agreement even when the tenant is current with the rent. In other situations, when working out a stipulation to vacate, a landlord may use completion of the termination agreement as leverage to hold up a settlement. But there is a work-around that gives the tenant more leverage in these situations. John Batanchiev, a Staff Attorney in NSLS's Civil Unit, recently helped a Section 8 tenant move to a new apartment despite her landlord's refusal to sign the termination agreement.

Ms. F and her family are participants in the Housing Choice Voucher Program. Despite being current with her rent, Ms. F’s landlord sent her a termination notice. The notice asked her to vacate the apartment by the end of the following month. Luckily, Ms. F found new housing for her family, which she could move into by the landlord's deadline. She then asked her landlord to complete a mutual termination agreement, which would allow her Section 8 administrator to process her move.

The landlord refused to sign the agreement, stopped communicating with Ms. F and for some time was totally unreachable. Even Ms. F’s Section 8 Housing Specialist was unable to communicate with the landlord. At this point, Ms. F and her family were concerned that they would lose the ability to move to their new housing because of their landlord’s obstruction. Ms. F reached out to Nassau Suffolk Law Services and spoke with Batanchiev.

A HUD regulation provides several ways for a Section 8 family to move to a new unit while continuing in the program. The two most common methods are under 24 C.F.R. § 982.354(b)(1), which allows a family to move when the Public Housing Authority has terminated the landlord’s Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contract because of the landlord’s breach of the contract or when the landlord and the family have signed a mutual termination agreement.

But 24 C.F.R. § 982.354(b)(2) states a “family may move to a new unit if…the owner has given the tenant a notice to vacate or has commenced an action to evict the tenant, or has obtained a court judgment or other process allowing the owner to evict the tenant.” In these situations, the tenant can provide the termination notice, the petition, or the proof of the warrant of eviction to their PHA. The PHA should allow the tenant to move to a new unit if they have found one without needing the landlord to cooperate with signing the mutual termination agreement.

In this case, Batanchiev made a request to the PHA to allow Ms. F to move as permitted under the HUD regulation and provided to the PHA the landlord’s January 2021 termination notice along with proof that Ms. F was current with her rent. Upon receiving this information, the PHA started the process of allowing Ms. F. to move to a new unit. If the PHA had not allowed Ms. F to move, she could have easily lost the new housing and found herself in a situation where she could be homeless and at the mercy of the landlord in a summary eviction proceeding.

24 C.F.R. § 982.354(b) allows two other ways for a tenant to get authorization to move to a new unit without the completion of a mutual termination agreement. The first method is when the tenant provides the landlord with a notice of lease termination (provided it is allowed under the lease and under state law). The second method is when “the family or a member of the family is or has been a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking and the move is needed to protect the health or safety of the family” or if the above-listed offenses occurred on the premises within 90 days of the family’s request to move.

Wednesday, June 9
12:30-2:00 pm

Presented by Lynnette Shirk,
Supervising Community Work Incentive Coordinator at the Viscardi Center

Learn about: 

  • Work incentive programs through the Social Security Administration
  • Transitioning from SSI/SSD to self-sufficiency
  • The effect of work on Medicare and Medicaid other benefits 
  • How clients can receive individualized benefits counseling

This program is offered in collaboration with the Viscardi Center.

Wednesday, June 16
12:30-2:00 pm

Presented by SAMHSA SOAR Technical Assistance Center

SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) is designed to increase access to SSI/SSDI for eligible adults and children who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness and have a serious mental illness, medical impairment, and/or a co-occurring substance use disorder. SOAR trains case managers to complete and submit a thorough SSI/SSDI application packet.

The webinar will provide an overview of SOAR and the SOAR process, review the SOAR Online Course, and discuss next steps for agency and community-wide SOAR implementation.  

This program is offered in collaboration with the SAMHSA SOAR Technical Assistance Center and the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless.

Presented by NSLS Foreclosure Prevention Project
In Partnership with the
Copiague Memorial Public Library
Many homeowners are struggling to pay their housing expenses because of the pandemic. Come learn about homeowners' rights and options from Nassau Suffolk Law Services' Foreclosure Unit. Topics discussed will include options for working with your lender and the foreclosure process, including:
  • Forbearance; 
  • Repayment plans;
  • Loan modifications;
  • The foreclosure process; and
  • Homeowner assistance programs.

Wednesday, July 21, 6:00 pm

Presented by NSLS Veterans Rights Project
In Partnership with the
Massapequa Public Library
Benefits and services from the Veterans Administration are critical for many who served in our armed forces. Join us to learn about how to overcome common obstacles to accessing Veterans Administration services, including upgrading discharge status. The presentation will also cover legal issues affecting Long Island Veterans as a result of the pandemic. 

Thursday, June 24, 2:00 pm
Dear Friends and Supporters,

Nassau Suffolk Law Services continues to help rebuild Long Island communities. We stay committed to helping Long Islanders get through the many life-changing legal issues they are experiencing brought about from the pandemic. We are Long Islanders helping Long Islanders – we are Long Island Strong. We hope you will show support for the work we do by donating to our Legal Umbrellas through Life’s Storms campaign. Thank you for your support. Together we can make a difference.

With Much Gratitude,

Catherine Lucidi
Director of Community Relations
The information contained in this material is not legal advice. Legal advice depends upon the specific facts of each situation. These materials cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel.