A law that bans evictions for two more months and will likely block many evictions in New York up until May 1 passed in the New York Senate today.

The COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act is one of the strongest, if not the most strong, bills in the nation to block eviction proceedings from going forward.

It comes just in time for Brooklyn tenants facing the threat of being booted from their homes, with the governor’s executive order barring many evictions expiring on Dec. 31.

Protesters march through Downtown Brooklyn by Kevin Limiti for BK Reader

The bill will halt any current or new eviction proceedings for 60 days to give tenants the opportunity to submit a “hardship declaration.” This effectively implements another two-month moratorium on evictions in New York.

Once the hardship declaration is submitted by the tenant to their landlord or to the court, the landlord will then not be able to evict them until May 1, 2021.

“By enacting this comprehensive residential eviction and foreclosure moratorium, we are delivering real protection for countless renters and homeowners who would otherwise be at risk of losing their homes, adding to the unprecedented hardship that so many are facing,” Senate Housing Committee Chair and bill sponsor Senator Brian Kavanagh said.

Protesters march through Downtown Brooklyn by Kevin Limiti for BK Reader

The Standardized Hardship Declaration Form allows tenants to declare financial hardship such as lost income due to COVID-19, increased health or childcare expenses or a lack of funds to move. It also allows tenants to declare if there is someone in the household at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

The act also includes protections for homeowners who own 10 or less dwellings, including their own home.

Like the tenants’ declaration form, these landlords will be able to submit a hardship declaration form to their mortgage lender, local assessor or to court stating that they are unable to pay their mortgage or property taxes. Submitting the form will protect them from foreclosure and tax lien sales.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said the move was “historic.”

“The bill advanced by the Senate Majority will help ensure New York tenants, homeowners, and small landlords will not have to fear being kicked out of their homes if they’ve been impacted by this pandemic and economic crisis,” she said.

Some property owners will also be protected from negative credit reporting thanks to the act.

Zellnor Myrie, a state senator representing central Brooklyn and sponsor of the bill, told the New York Times he has had at least three eviction warrants issued in his district since October. The most recent warrant was issued for a tenant who was unable to pay rent.

“So even with the constellation of moratoria, there have still been landlords going after tenants.”

Residents line outside of The Van Dyke Housing Complex in Brownsville, Brooklyn
Residents line outside of The Van Dyke Housing Complex in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

The Legal Aid Society Attorney-in-Charge of the Civil Law Reform Unit Judith Goldiner said the legislation would “literally save lives.”

“Not only does it institute a true and full moratorium for sixty days – enough time hopefully to carry people through the darkest remaining days of this pandemic – but it creates tools enabling tenants to seek to halt an eviction at any point in the process, even after a case has been adjudicated and resulted in an eviction warrant.”

However, she warned that if New York is still severely mired in the pandemic come May, lawmakers should remain open to enhancing the law prior to evictions.

Jessy Edwards

Jessy Edwards is a writer based in Bushwick. Originally from New Zealand, she has written for the BBC, Rolling Stone, NBC New York, CNBC and her hometown newspaper, The Dominion Post, among others.

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