NEW YORK — In a significant move, New York State legislators and Governor Andrew Cuomo took an important step in protecting the rights of tenants and preventing them from being evicted in troubling economic times due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Tenant Safe Harbor Act was signed into law Tuesday. It is well ahead of the rest of the country in protective measures for anyone at risk of being evicted from their homes.
“It’s going to reduce mass homelessless and it’s going to relieve one more burden off the minds of so many New Yorkers who are struggling financially,” said New York State Senator Brad Hoylman, who represents the 27th District and is a co-sponsor of the original bill.
With the state moratorium on evictions now in effect, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers can ease some of their financial worries, but there are still many the law does not protect, including the undocumented population.
For this group, claiming financial hardship and qualifying for unemployment insurance is proof of employment they just do not have.
“It’s a part of the puzzle and a part of the recovery. It doesn’t provide complete protection or relief by those affected by those affected by the pandemic,” said Nakeeb Siddique, who is a housing attorney with The Legal Aid Society.
The law is also only a temporary moment of relief and will expire when the state’s declaration of emergency lifts. Housing advocates and state lawmakers believe it is why the federal government must step in with hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance.
“We’re looking to Washington for more assistance because someone’s got to pay these bills and if it’s not renters, it’s going to be the landlords and many of them smaller have mortgages to pay. So, we desperately need more financial assistance for the city and state of New York,” said Hoylman.
Here’s what you need to know about your rights as a tenant:
-At this time, you cannot be evicted. However after the moratorium ends, you can only be evicted if your landlord brings you to housing court first.
-Only a City Marshall or Sheriff can remove you physically, but only after you’ve gone through the housing court process and an order is issued by that court
-Changing locks or preventing tenants access to their homes is illegal and a crime: a misdemeanor if it’s done without the proper court process. Call 911 if this happens to you
-You have the right to counsel in housing cases. Call 311 to be connected to resources
NYC Legal Aid Society— https://legalaidnyc.org/get-help/housing-problems/
Met Council on Housing – https://www.metcouncilonhousing.org/program/tenants-rights-hotline/
One Shot Deal – https://portal.311.nyc.gov/article/?kanumber=KA-01104