By Maria Rocha-Buschel
State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz, along with State Senator Liz Krueger, introduced the NYS Tenant Safe Harbor Act on Tuesday in order to further protect tenants from eviction beyond Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 90-day eviction moratorium.
The new bill would prohibit landlords from evicting tenants for non-payment of rent that accrued during the State of Emergency and for six months after the State of Emergency’s eventual end. Cuomo’s executive order prevents landlords from evicting tenants for 90 days, which will be in effect until at least June 20, but tenants who can’t afford to pay all of the rent owed once the moratorium ends could face immediate eviction. The legislation, sponsored by Hoylman and Dinowitz and co-sponsored by Krueger, would protect these tenants from being evicted for non-payment of rent that accrued during the State of Emergency that started on March 7, through six months after the State of Emergency ends.
“The governor’s 90-day eviction moratorium was a good first step to protect tenants from losing their homes during the COVID-19 crisis. But it’s not enough,” Hoylman said. “Unless we act, we’ll see a tidal wave of evictions immediately after the moratorium ends when tenants who’ve lost income are suddenly forced to pay several months’ worth of rent. Our legislation prevents an impending eviction disaster by providing tenants who’ve lost their jobs a safe harbor to get healthy and back on their feet while our country recovers from this economic disaster.”
The Tenant Safe Harbor Act would prevent landlords from seeking possessory judgments, usually known as evictions, for unpaid rent that was due since the beginning of the pandemic through a six-month period following the end of the State of Emergency. Landlords would still be allowed to seek money judgments for unpaid rent but would not be able to evict tenants for non-payment of rent in the meantime.
“The COVID-19 pandemic, and the associated economic crisis it has caused, have created the potential for widespread evictions beyond anything our state has seen since the Great Depression,” Krueger said. “It is vital that we take real, practical, viable action to ensure that our fellow New Yorkers do not lose their homes at a time when they cannot earn an income because they have been ordered to stay home. The Tenant Safe Harbor Act would prevent an unprecedented housing crisis, and give New York tenants a chance to get back on their feet when the virus has passed.”
The legislation is not intended to replace proposals to cancel rent for tenants who have been impacted by COVID-19 because those proposals wouldn’t apply retroactively, so the elected officials argue that this protection is necessary to prevent landlords from evicting tenants who can’t afford their rent before any legislation to cancel rent is ultimately passed.
COVID-19 could lead to 47 million jobs lost across the country and a nationwide unemployment rate of 32%, according to estimates from the Federal Reserve, meaning that millions of New Yorkers would be unable to afford rent payments.