submitted by Kevin M. Quinn
On June 30, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed into law the New York Tenant Safe Harbor Act (the Act), which provides further protections to tenants suffering from financial hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Act prohibits courts from ever evicting residential tenants who failed to pay their rent during the COVID-19 pandemic because of a financial hardship. The Act makes it clear that this protection does not apply to tenants who willfully withhold rent, or may be subject to an eviction for reasons other than an accumulation of back rent during the COVID19 period. Though courts can never use unpaid rent during the pandemic as a basis of evicting a financially burdened tenant, courts do have the ability to issue money judgments to landlords for rent deficiencies. These judgments can be enforced to recover future wages or earnings from a tenant to satisfy the money owed in the judgment.
For the purposes of determining financial hardship during the pandemic, courts are to look at the period beginning March 7, 2020 until such time in which none of the provisions that closed non-essential gatherings continue to apply in the tenant’s county of residence. In order to determine whether at tenant has demonstrated the proper financial burden to invoke the Safe Harbor Act, courts are to look at the following factors:
- the tenant’s or lawful occupant’s income prior to the COVID-19 period;
- the tenant’s or lawful occupant’s income during the COVID-19 period;
- the tenant’s or lawful occupant’s liquid assets; and
- the tenant’s or lawful occupant’s eligibility for and receipt of cash assistance, supplemental nutrition assistance program, supplemental security income, the New York State disability program, the home energy assistance program, or unemployment insurance or benefits under state or federal law.
If you have questions regarding the New York Tenant Safe Harbor Act or believe you are at risk of eviction, please feel free to contact our office at 716-853-3087 to discuss your case further.