NYCHA Discontinues Over 31,000 Non-Payment Cases in Housing Court

Image Credit: NYCHA.

The pandemic and eviction moratorium provided NYCHA with an opportunity to reassess the agency’s approach to non-payment cases. On February 3, 2022, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) announced that the agency has discontinued over 31,000 rental non-payment cases in housing court without judicial intervention. There were approximately 34,000 non-payment cases from NYCHA before the housing court; the discontinuance will result in a resolution of 90 percent of these cases. 

NYCHA collected $898 million in rent in 2021, $964 million in rent in 2020, and $1.05 billion in rent in 2019. The decline indicates a 25 percent decrease in rent received between 2019 and 2021. By discontinuing most cases, NYCHA will prioritize cases that extend past two years that owe significant amounts, which equate to approximately 2,300 cases owing an estimated $44 million in past due rent.

The pandemic and subsequent eviction moratorium provided NYCHA with time to reevaluate and develop better data-driven approaches to handling these non-payment cases. The shift is a part of NYCHA’s Transformation Plan, which aims to optimize agency resources to better serve tenants, maintain properties and manage operations. According to the Transformation Plan, the agency required Housing Assistants and Property Managers to initiate termination of tenancy cases for non-payment of rent, but the agency’s Law Department and Public Housing Tenancy Administration had little way to see which cases were brought to housing court and why, resulting in inconsistency in cases across NYCHA developments. As the housing court process is time-consuming, requires a great deal of organization and review of files and records, and necessitates a familiarity with the legal process, requiring Housing Assistants and Property Managers to focus on non-payment cases took time and focus off other critical aspects of operation, like property management and repair, and other quality of life issues. Discontinuing the cases also allows tenants to not miss work, school or other obligations to attend court dates.

The agency’s new approach is to use litigation to address non-payment as a last resort. Some of the changes to assist tenants include a consent-driven process that allows NYCHA to apply for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) on behalf of its residents. Through a large-scale communications campaign including phone calls, email, mailings, and knocking on doors, residents were notified of the process. As of January 24, 2022, nearly 28,000 ERAP applications were submitted by NYCHA on behalf of its residents. These applications reflected more than $105 million in rent arrears. 

The agency is not litigating cases with an Emergency Rental Assistance Program application in progress. NYCHA has deprioritized cases where the head of household was over 62 years old. Cases were also discontinued where the household had no arrears or arrears that accrued only during the pandemic. NYCHA also discontinued cases where a household had multiple cases against it, only keeping the most recent case. 

NYCHA will be coordinating with the Human Resources Administration to support residents receiving welfare, and will roll out enhanced payment plans to help stabilize delinquent accounts. Other efforts include reviewing the priority list and identifying severe outstanding repairs, referrals for tenants to social service providers, issuing NYCHA-wide guidance on how to work with housing attorneys. During the pandemic, NYCHA also worked to make it easier for families to apply for the agency’s rental hardship program. This included working with HUD to grant waivers to permit families to self-certify income loss and streamlined the interim recertification process. 

NYCHA Chair and CEO Greg Russ stated, “The pandemic created an opportunity for NYCHA to re-imagine how we prioritize lease enforcement. The data-driven and customer service-oriented approach reflects the vision we have for bringing sustainable change that positions the Authority for a stronger future and improves the resident experience.”

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, Chair of the Assembly Housing Committee stated, “NYCHA’s multi-pronged approach to reducing its number of eviction cases represents a win-win situation for both tenants and the Housing Authority. The new data-driven approach to lease enforcement will allow faster resolution of day-to-day issues that affect tenants’ quality of life, and having NYCHA apply for ERAP on residents’ behalf will mean that more families will stay in their homes, reducing housing insecurity at a time when so many people are still struggling to recover from the effects of the pandemic.”

By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)


One thought on “NYCHA Discontinues Over 31,000 Non-Payment Cases in Housing Court

  1. How does this affect landlords of small buildings? We have not received rent from our tenants for 2 years and in addition they engage in malicious mischief and call in bogus violations that they themselves have created.

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