The moratorium on residential and commercial eviction proceedings has expired as of January 15, 2022. As experienced tenants’ attorneys, we here at Himmelstein McConnell Gribben & Joseph LLP are prepared to advise and represent tenants who have been served with notices from their landlords or are otherwise facing possible nonpayment or holdover eviction proceedings. Here are the basics of what tenants need to know:
- Tenants who submitted a Hardship Declaration Form, either to the landlord or to the Court, need to know that the case will now be able to move forward. Economic hardship as a result of the pandemic, and/or poor health, are no longer grounds for an automatic stay of an eviction proceeding. If the case is not yet pending in the Court, the landlord will be able to move forward by filing the proceeding and having papers served upon the tenant. If the case is already pending in the Court, the proceeding is no longer stayed and the landlord will be allowed to continue with the case, at the stage of the proceeding where it left off at the time that the Hardship Declaration Form was filed.
- Tenants who have filed an application through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (“ERAP”) will be still be entitled to a stay of proceedings while their application is pending.
- Residential tenants still have the right to raise a defense under the Tenant Safe Harbor Act, if they experienced economic hardship due to the Covid pandemic between March 16, 2020 and June 15, 2021. If the tenant can prove this defense, the Court will not allow a possessory judgment (i.e. eviction) as to any rent not paid during that period, and will limit the landlord’s relief to a money judgment only.
- The deadlines under the existing law imposed upon tenants for answering nonpayment and holdover petitions are now in full force and effect. Tenants are advised to read their notice of petition and petition carefully, preferably with the help of an attorney, to be sure to meet those deadlines and get their answers filed on time.
- It is assumed that there are literally tens of thousands of unresolved eviction cases already filed, and it is expected that landlords and their attorneys will now be pushing very hard to move these cases forward in the courts. Also, the volume of new cases filed with the courts is likely to be enormous. The cases that were filed first will likely get precedence, but it is presumed that many cases will move rather slowly through the courts for the time being, due to the large amount of cases to be scheduled.
- New cases will be electronically filed, or “e-filed.” Old cases will mostly be converted to e-filing. Under the e-filing system, hard copies papers do not have to be filed with the Court in person. Tenants who do not have attorneys are able e-file by registering in the court’s filing system, known as NYSCEF, or tenants may choose to serve and be served with hard copies of papers, in which case they will still have to file them at the courthouse.
- Court appearances will be either virtual (via video) or in person, at the discretion of the Judge. It is expected that the courts will offer “alternate dispute resolution” options and may try to convince tenants to choose that option rather than continue before a Judge.
- Tenants will be offered an opportunity to see if they qualify for a free attorney from legal services or legal aid through the City’s Right to Counsel program. It is recommended that tenants who do not qualify for free legal counsel should seek the advice and assistance of experienced private attorneys who devote their practice to the representation of tenants.
At HMGJ we are experienced attorneys who are ready to provide counsel, advice, and representation to tenants who are facing a pending eviction proceeding, at any stage of the case. The sooner a tenant seeks the advice and counsel of an experienced attorney, the better.