On March 22, 2020, New York’s governor issued an executive order called “New York State on PAUSE” that closed all “non-essential businesses in the state of New York” and ordered all non-essential workers to stay home. As a result of the coronavirus-related shutdowns, many New Yorkers are finding themselves unemployed, underemployed, laid off, out of business, and unable to pay rent.
Many state and local governments are enacting emergency bans on evictions and other tenant protections. On March 20, 2020, New York’s governor issued an order banning all eviction proceedings in the state of New York for 90 days. The governor’s order doesn’t waive a tenant’s obligation to pay rent—it merely blocks a landlord’s ability to evict a tenant for the next 90 days. Landlords will be free to initiate eviction proceedings after the 90 day period has elapsed. In light of this, renters are well advised to pay their rent if they can or to reach an agreement with the landlord to make up any missed rent payments if they can’t.
In addition to the statewide eviction ban, New York tenants might be able to take advantage of other resources and assistance programs.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) (the coronavirus stimulus bill recently passed by the federal government) places a 120-day moratorium on evictions of tenants who reside in federally subsidized housing or properties containing federally backed mortgage loans. According to the National Housing Law Project, nearly 70 percent of the mortgages held on single-family homes throughout the U.S. are federally backed.
Even though New Yorkers who are unable to pay their rent might not have to worry about getting evicted in the next 90 days, they will still owe rent and, if they can’t work things out with their landlords, might face eviction as soon as restrictions are lifted.
Fortunately, there are some resources tenants can turn to for rent assistance. A number of local governments have rental assistance programs. For example New York City Human Resources Administration has a page devoted to rental assistance and helps New Yorkers access city, state and federal rent assistance programs. RentalAssistance also maintains a comprehensive list of rental assistance programs throughout the state of New York.
New York City renters should check out Access NYC’s COVID-19 updates related to housing resources and other matters.
A bill is also pending to suspend rent payments for certain residential tenants in New York due to the coronavirus outbreak (we will update with status).
Renters might be able to qualify for help from charitable organizations that have rent assistance programs such as the Salvation Army of Greater New York and United Way of New York State. Nolo is also regularly updating a list of resources for renters and landlords on its blog.
While eviction bans are helpful to tenants during the pandemic, such measures might put landlords who depend upon the rental income in a bind. Fortunately, resources and protections also exist for some landlords during this crisis.
On March 21, 2020, the governor of New York issued an executive order banning mortgage foreclosures for 90 days and providing that landlords (property owners) who can prove financial hardship as a result of the pandemic and whose mortgages are held by New York State regulated financial institutions can get mortgage forbearance (waiver of mortgage payments) for 90 days, without incurring late fees.
In addition to New York’s mortgage relief measures, the CARES Act imposes a 120-day moratorium on foreclosure of federally backed mortgages and prohibits the imposition of penalties, interest, and late fees during that time period.
The CARES Act also provides landlords (property owners) with federally backed mortgage loans who are adversely affected by the pandemic with mortgage payment relief. Specifically, if they make a request to their mortgage servicer for payment assistance and affirm that they’re experiencing a financial hardship caused, directly or indirectly, by the pandemic, the mortgage servicer is required under the law to offer them a mortgage payment forbearance of up to 180 days (meaning that monthly payments can be reduced or deferred for up to six months). The landlord can also get an extension of the forbearance period for up to an additional 180 days during the pandemic upon request. Mortgage servicers are prohibited from charging fees, penalties, or interest charges beyond what the landlord already owed during the forbearance period.
This relief is not automatic. Landlords (property owners) are required to request assistance from their mortgage servicers and find out what options are available to them. Also, these forbearance measures don’t waive or forgive a landlord’s obligation to make up the delayed mortgage payments, so landlords will have to work with their mortgage servicers to bring their mortgages current once the forbearance ends.
Although the mortgage relief provided by the CARES Act only applies to federally backed mortgages, there are a number of other mortgage servicers providing relief to property owners affected by the COVID-19 crisis. All landlords affected by the pandemic should check with their mortgage servicer to see what relief might be available to them.
Moreover, if the landlord is self-employed or owns a small business or otherwise qualifies, he or she could take advantage of the loans, grants and other financial assistance made available in the CARES Act to make up for lost rental income. New York landlords should check out the Empire State Development site for more information. As a renter, consider trying to come to an arrangement with your landlord that allows you to remain in your rental and allows your landlord to keep paying the bills. For example, you might work out a temporary rent payment plan, partial payment, or other arrangement that keeps you both from facing serious consequences.