Chief Administrative Judge Issues Statewide Moratorium on Eviction Proceedings in Wake of Corona Crisis

NYS Unified Court System Logo Image Credit: NY Courts

REBNY, Legal Aid and all parties united against evictions during Corona outbreak. On March 15, 2020, the New York State Court System issued an indefinite moratorium on eviction proceedings, effectively allowing many people and families throughout the state to stay in their homes and off the streets or in shelters. Tenant advocates and numerous elected officials argued housing insecurity and homelessness will only exacerbate the COVID-19 threat. The proceedings which a New York City Housing Court might now hear, will be limited to landlord lockouts, serious housing code violations and repair orders. Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks’ memorandum also limits other types of “non-essential” proceedings to assure the operation of the courts in the safest possible manner for the public and court employees.

The indefinite eviction moratorium comes a mere two days after Judge Marks issued a one-week eviction moratorium and the Real Estate Board of New York penned an open letter calling for a 90-day moratorium on evictions.  According to their press release, REBNY and the undersigned property managers and landlords would not have executed warrants for eviction unless it was for “criminal or negligent behavior that jeopardizes the life, health or safety of other residents.” REBNY’s apparent belief, and the various signees of the letter, is that no one should have to worry about a place to live during the crisis. Signees included A & E Real Estate, The Durst Organization, the Gotham Organization, Inc., Rudin Management Company, Tishman Speyer and Vornado Realty Trust among others.

Janet Sabel, CEO and Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society, stated “we have been fervently advocating for the closure of civil and housing courts in New York and are very relieved to hear that OCA has finally heeded the advice of housing advocates across the state Thousands of New Yorkers enter housing court and other civil courts on a daily basis, and today’s decision to stop proceedings to those who are in high-risk groups such as the elderly or immunocompromised.” Sabel added, “evicting a single family and forcing them onto the street or into the shelter system- which is already overburdened and a potential hotbed of contagion—during this unprecedented public health emergency would be inhumane and cruel.”

James Whelan, REBNY President, stated “In crises, New Yorkers pull together. Now is a time for everyone to do their share. No one knows how bad the impact of the COVID-19 virus will be. That’s why New Yorkers are taking extraordinary steps to slow the spread of the virus and protect our must vulnerable people.” He added, “we want to do our share too. As owners and managers of more than 150,000 rental apartments in the City, we will help our residents weathers this crisis safely in their homes.”

A spokesperson for Housing Justice for All, stated “this unprecedented move by the state came in response to a grassroots, statewide tenants’ movement that developed clear demands in light of the evolving public health crisis. An eviction moratorium is a step in the right direction. But we also know that this is not enough. Working class people will lose their jobs and income due to COVID-19. While they cannot be evicted now, many tenants will be thousands of dollars in debt at the end of this pandemic. Nobody should have to pay rent when they cannot afford it, especially when it’s for reasons completely out of their control.”

By: Jason Rogovich (Jason Rogovich is the CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2019)



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