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In March of 2020, due to the pandemic, Governor Andrew Cuomo closed all New York courts from hearing rent evictions, by executive order. Many people had lost jobs, and there were also recommendations that people not “move around” a lot, while looking for new properties to rent. And so, local courts were banned from hearing evictions for the seven months between March 2020 and September 2020. While renters breathed a sigh of relief that they could put off paying rent while unemployed, landlords were frustrated as they were still required to pay property taxes, as well as maintenance costs for those properties, such as garbage removal and repairs, and in some cases, utilities, in effect keeping families for free in their properties by state order. In the most recent order, tenants had to show they were unemployed due to the pandemic to achieve the benefits of the moratorium, although many renters assumed, with courts closed, nothing could be done to evict, no matter what reason they had for not paying.
Some landlords in White Plains, NY tried to sue the state for invalidating leases and private contracts landlords made with tenants which required care of property and rent to be paid on time. However, they lost, with the judge saying the rents weren’t “forgiven” and still had to be paid when the moratorium expired. A summary of the decision and more detail on the moratorium can be found here: https://www.law.com/newyorklawjournal/2020/06/29/landlords-barred-from-suing-over-cuomos-eviction-moratorium-mcmahon-rules/?slreturn=20201004204222
However, just as landlords were feeling the relief of the Oct. 1 expiration for the Cuomo ban on evictions ending, President Donald Trump issued a similar moratorium, expanding the “no evictions for non-payment of rent” through Dec. 31,2020, leaving some landlords frustrated who realized they now were being forced to wait from 7 months to 10 months to be reimbursed for past due rent or to evict tenants. For most, that would amount to thousands of dollars, and the questions and doubts if renters would ever be able pay it, even after months to adjust spending, find new jobs, or move in with family members. Many renters like their apartments, knew they could put off paying, and so remained in the properties, much to landlords’ consternation, who wanted to rent to paying renters.
But the moratorium announced by Donald Trump has a loophole. The ban is not on all evictions, only for those for non-payment of rent. Under his executive order, tenants can be evicted for breaking the terms of a lease such as noise, nuisance, or damage complaints. Tenants taking advantage of the moratorium are also required to be making under $99,000 and must apply in writing for the moratorium to their landlords. If they don’t fill out the paperwork, rent is expected to be paid. Trump’s executive order did not address late charges for late rent. (Cuomo banned adding late fees to the rent bill if tenants contacted landlords.)
Residents of Monroe, Ontario, and Livingston County are in the 7th Judicial District of New York State, and that agency has disallowed town courts from hearing evictions or lawsuits involving damage to property. Instead, litigants file their lawsuits with the town in which the property is located, and the town forwards the lawsuit to the county court to hear the case. Currently, “old cases” from March-September 30 are being heard first, with new applications for court to be addressed after the first of the year. Some cases are held over the Skype program.
However, circumstances change with this move. The papers for suing for eviction or property damage are available for free from town courts, but the cost would be much more than the usual $20 town court fee. In county court, it will cost about $230 to get an index number, motion, and other legal requirements; in addition, a lawyer is expected, unlike town court. The $3,000 “cap” on the amount to be collected is removed.
As a result of changes in rental law, many landlords in local counties have adjusted by doing more careful credit checks, and, instead of asking for one month’s security deposit, now want two months security deposit, knowing taking tenants to court for damages or nonpayment of rent is more expensive and more complex than previously. However, these changes being made by landlords are making rental properties more difficult for new renters to rent.
For more information on tenant eviction, contact a local lawyer or check the 7th Judicial District’s website at