Evictions Protections During COVID

This page was adapted from an article by Right to Counsel NYC

Please note: Things are always changing. Please keep checking back for updates. This page was last updated on September 2nd, 2021.

Can I Be Evicted?

Most likely NOT if you TAKE ACTION.

Apply for New York’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) – If you have been financially impacted by COVID-19 and missed any rent at your current residence since March 13, 2020, you could be eligible to receive funds to pay your back rent. If you applied for ERAP your landlord cannot start a new eviction case against you and any current eviction case will be paused while you wait for your ERAP application to be processed. 

If you are found eligible for ERAP and the landlord accepts the money:

  • Landlords can’t sue for money covered by ERAP in a non payment case. 
  • Landlords can’t sue for no-cause holdovers for 1 year EXCEPT in buildings with 4 units or less where the landlord/family member wants to immediately occupy it and EXCEPT where the Landlord says the tenant intentionally causes significant property damage or the tenant persistently engages in behavior that infringes on other tenants or creates a substantial safety hazard to others. 

The Tenant Safe Harbor Act allows tenants to raise COVID related financial hardship as a defense in their non-payment cases, if they are sued for money owed between March 7, 2020 and January 15, 2022. Tenants have to show in court that they were hurt financially by COVID-19. If the court decides the tenant proved their financial hardship, then landlords can’t evict for this money owed. But they can still start eviction cases and get money judgments in court.

If you have been impacted by COVID financially in any way or if moving would pose a health risk to you or your family, you can delay your eviction until at least January 15, 2022 by filling out a hardship declaration form and submitting it to your landlord, the court or both (more info below).

Am I Eligible to Delay My Eviction Until at Least January 15th, 2022?

To submit the hardship declaration, you must be the tenant, lawful occupant, or the person responsible paying for rent. The hardship declaration must say that you:

  • cannot pay rent or find alternative housing due to financial hardship because of lost income or increased expenses, AND government assistance has not made up for the lost income or increased expenses. OR 
  • have an underlying condition (or someone in your household), which would make moving to a new home a significant health risk.

By signing this form, you have to also agree that: 

  • You will comply with your lease and could incur fees, penalties, interest for not paying rent.  
  • You understand that the landlord may request a hearing to challenge the hardship declaration and that you will have a chance to participate in any proceedings relating to your tenancy
  • You understand that your landlord may be able to seek eviction after January 15, 2022, and that and that the law may provide certain protections at that time that are separate from those available through this declaration.

All tenants, regardless of immigration status, are eligible for these protections!

How Do I Submit the Hardship Declaration Form?

Fill out this form: https://www.evictionfreeny.org/en/

You can also download the form in your primary language and do any of the following: 

  • mail it to your landlord, the court, or both.  
  • drop it off in person at a box outside your local housing court.  

NYC tenants: Mail or Email it to your local housing court:

  • Manhattan Housing Court: Address: 111 Centre Street, New York, NY 10013; Email: NewYorkHardshipDeclaration@nycourts.gov
  • Bronx Housing Court: Address: 1118 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY 10456; Email: BronxHardshipDeclaration@nycourts.gov
  • Brooklyn Housing Court: Address: 141 Livingston St, Brooklyn, NY 11201; Email: KingsHardshipDeclaration@nycourts.gov
  • Queens Housing Court: Address: 89-17 Sutphin Boulevard, Jamaica, New York 11435; Email: QueensHardshipDeclaration@nycourts.gov
  • Staten Island Housing Court: Address: 927 Castleton Avenue, Staten Island, New York 10310; Email: RichmondHardshipDeclaration@nycourts.gov

Who Is Not Protected by NY’s COVID-19 Tenant Protection Laws?

If a landlord claims that a tenant is a nuisance, meaning they say a tenant “persistently behaves in a way that substantially infringes on the use or enjoyment of other tenants OR that causes substantial safety hazards to others,” or that a tenant intentionally caused significant damage to the apartment, then the tenant is not protected by this law. Remember, a landlord would have to show this in court. If they can’t and the tenant filled out the hardship declaration form, then the eviction is delayed until at least January 15, 2022.

Can My Landlord Challenge my Hardship Declaration?

YES.  THIS IS NEW. Landlords now have the right to challenge the validity of a tenants’ hardship declaration.  To do this, landlords can file a motion with the court, stating they don’t believe the tenant has the hardship they claimed in their Hardship Declaration.  If this happens, the Court will then grant a hearing to determine the validity of the tenant’s hardship claim and tenants will need to show proof of the hardship they claimed in their Declaration. In NYC tenants will be assigned an attorney through Right to Counsel for these hearings and their eviction cases. 

  • If the court decides that the tenant proved their hardship claim, then their case/eviction remains paused until at least 1/15/22.  The court will direct the parties to apply to ERAP  if it seems like the tenant is eligible and they haven’t yet applied. 
  • If the court decides that the tenant is NOT experiencing hardship, then their case and eviction can move forward. 

What Does My Landlord Have to Do to Comply With These Laws?

When landlords send you a rent demand or a notice to sue you in court for any kind of case, they must include a copy of the hardship declaration form in your primary language. In addition, they also have to include the state’s notice about the declaration, a mailing and email address for returning the declaration to the landlord, and include a list of housing non-profit legal organizations in your county.

If you return the declaration to the landlord, the only way the landlord can sue you is by saying they gave you all the information but never received a hardship declaration back OR that you aren’t eligible because you are disturbing other tenants or creating a safety hazard or intentionally damaged property OR that they want to challenge your hardship claim. 

If you already have an eviction case and you submit a hardship declaration to your landlord, they are required to file it promptly with the court. 

What Do the Courts Have to Do to Comply With These Laws?

The courts must translate the declaration into at least the 6 most common languages and put the form on their website.  

If the court learns that the tenant didn’t get the declaration from their landlord before the case was filed, they must pause the case for at least 10 days and give the tenant a copy of the declaration form in their primary language. The court cannot order a new eviction or allow a landlord to act on an eviction warrant without first holding a hearing or case conference. This will give the tenant a chance to be in court and file a hardship declaration to stop the eviction.

What if a Sheriff’s/Marshal’s Lockout Notice or Warrant Has Already Been Issued?

These evictions are paused until the court can conduct a case conference. After that an eviction could move forward unless the tenant files a hardship declaration to stop it. Fill out a hardship declaration form to stop your eviction until at least January 15, 2022 as soon as possible! If a marshal comes to evict you, it’s not too late – give the hardship declaration to the marshal and that will stop your eviction (providing you’re not being evicted for property damage, infringing on other tenants or causing a safety hazard).

However, please note that this law doesn’t stop all evictions.  If a court finds you ineligible for the protection from the hardship declaration, you could still be evicted. 

In NYC, you should get in contact with a lawyer ASAP by calling Housing Court Answers at 212-962-4795. 

I Have an Upcoming Court Date for My Eviction Case, What Should I Do?

For NYC tenants, the Right to Counsel law means you should be able to get a lawyer for your court date. Call Housing Court Answers at 212-962-4795 for a referral to a free legal service provider.

What if I Can’t Pay My Rent?

You are not alone. Over a million New Yorkers cannot pay rent. NYS now has a rental relief program, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). Applications are processed on a first-come, first-served basis so if you believe you are eligible, apply ASAP!

What if My Landlord Locks Me Out Illegally?

If you are a NYC tenant, you can file at an emergency court room to be let back into your home. Call Housing Court Answers at 212-962-4795 for a referral to a free legal service provider.

Can My Landlord Try to Vacate My Unit?

Vacate orders are issued when an apartment is dangerous or illegal, and only city agencies can issue them. Landlords are not legally empowered to directly issue vacate orders. During this crisis, we would expect vacate orders to be rare — in response to truly dangerous situations or as the result of a fire. Once a vacate order is issued, tenants have the right to access relocation services provided by City agencies.