MELS Can Help With New Eviction Protections

By BILL WHALEN, Director and Chief Counsel, DC 37 Municipal Employees Legal Services

DC 37’s Municipal Employees Legal Services is here to help members with their housing issues.

If you have received a legal notice, are in need of rental assistance or have a question about a lease renewal, rent increase, repair dispute, rent subsidy, income recertification, SCRIE or other landlord-tenant matter, call our Screening Unit at 212-815-1111 or email MELSscreeningunit@dc37.net.

EVICTIONS AND HOUSING COURT: Where We Now Stand

New York courts are in the process of re-opening but evictions remain on hold pursuant to the several Orders, Memoranda and Directives. Here is where NYC tenants now stand.

On August 12 and 13, 2020, the Chief Administrative Judge of NYC Courts issued AO/160A/2020 and an explanatory August 12 Memorandum which provides:

  1. Eviction cases filed on or after March 17, 2020 continue to be suspended;
  2. Eviction cases filed before March 17 may proceed;
  3. [However,] Residential eviction cases filed before March 17 must be presented to a judge before any action is taken and no residential evictions can take place before October 1st.

Under AO/160A/2020, residential eviction cases brought before March 17, 2020 may be resumed, but only after the court holds a status or settlement conference.  At the conference, the court will inquire into the effects, if any, that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the parties; determine if the tenant is entitled to any special relief under state or federal law  in light of the pandemic, including the Tenant Safe Harbor Act; refer unrepresented tenants to housing counseling agencies and use the court’s best efforts to resolve any outstanding issues.

Also, under AO/160A/2020, all new housing court petitions served on tenants in residential eviction cases must include a notice to the tenant indicating that tenants may be eligible for an extension of time to respond.

On August 12, 2020, the Administrative Judge of the NYC Civil Court issued DRP 213 providing that in eviction cases brought  before March 17, 2020 any attempt by the landlord or marshal to proceed with an eviction must be preceded by a written request to the court with a copy of the request served on the tenant.   All such requests require the landlord to include and serve by mail a Notice to the tenant of their rights, in the linked form attached as Exh. A to DRP 213.

On September 1, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an Order which provides a national temporary ban on residential evictions resulting from the non-payment of rent through December 31, 2020.  The order extends the ban on residential evictions in New York from October 1 to December 31 but does not apply to holdover eviction cases that are based on lease violations or expiration of leases.  The order applies to all residential properties and not only those involved with federal programs.  There are criminal penalties if a landlord violates the order.

For a tenant to qualify for coverage under the CDC Order, the tenant is required to provide a “Declaration Under Penalty of Perjury” to the landlord on the linked form which the CDC has provided, that all of the following are true:

  • I have used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing;
  • I either expect to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return), was not required to report any income in 2019 to the U.S. I.R.S., or received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) pursuant to Section 2201 of the CARES Act;
  • I am unable to pay my full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, lay-offs, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses;
  • I am using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as my circumstances may permit, taking into account other non-discretionary expenses; and
  • If evicted I would likely become homeless, need to move into a homeless shelter, or need to move into a new residence shared by other people who live in close quarters because I have no other available housing options.

If you receive any notices from your landlord or a city marshal or notices from the court at any time, you should immediately contact MELS for help. Call the MELS Screening Unit at 212-815-1111 or email MELSscreeningunit@dc37.net. If you want advice or assistance in drafting or submitting a CDC Declaration to your landlord or need help applying for rental assistance, please contact MELS.

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