This article was last updated: October 27th, 2022
With the expiration in January 2022 of the moratorium on residential evictions in New York, evictions – and concerns about evictions – are again on the rise. With evictions increasing, more landlords and tenants will need the advice and services of a New York City eviction attorney.
While the number of evictions carried out so far in 2022 is far below the pre-pandemic rate, more than 200,000 eviction cases piled up during the two-year moratorium, and the number of eviction filings has rapidly increased this year as landlords seek to recover their pandemic-related losses.
Now that the moratorium on residential evictions has expired, what legal protections remain for tenants in New York City who cannot pay rent and face the possibility of eviction? What legal steps can those tenants take?
If you will keep reading this brief discussion of evictions, tenants’ rights, and the law in New York, you will learn the answers to these questions, and you will also learn about the advice and legal services that a New York City housing lawyer can provide.
What Legal Protections Do New York City Residential Tenants Have?
The Tenant Safe Harbor Act, adopted in 2020 as a response to the pandemic, protects residential tenants who were unable to pay rent during the eviction moratorium due to a financial hardship. The Act does not apply to rent that was due prior to the moratorium or since its expiration.
To avoid eviction under the Tenant Safe Harbor Act, a tenant must show a New York Housing Court that he or she experienced a financial hardship during the moratorium period. Proving necessary pandemic-related expenses may persuade the court to recognize a financial hardship.
New York City’s Right to Counsel law took effect in 2017, and while it effectively protected the rights of residential tenants in New York City prior to the pandemic, there is now a shortage of available lawyers, and several legal aid groups have even stopped accepting new eviction cases.
The law is supposed to provide tenants who are under 200 percent of the federal poverty line with legal counsel in Housing Court, but according to Raun Rasmussen, who is the executive director of Legal Services NYC, “Thousands of tenants are not going to be able to get a lawyer.”
Is More Federal Funding Available?
Although additional federal funding was recently approved for New York’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), those funds will not come close to meeting the need. More than 135,000 applicants are waiting for relief, and meeting their requests would cost $1.7 billion.
The most recent federal funding for ERAP, $99.4 million, is six percent of the amount that is needed. The New York Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, which administers ERAP, has requested another $1.3 billion in additional funds from the federal government.
Patrick Tyrrell, a senior staff attorney at Mobilization for Justice, is not optimistic that more federal funds will be approved for ERAP in the near future. “Right now,” according to Tyrrell, “the political will in D.C. to give what states are asking for their ERAP programs is low.”
The legal protections afforded to residential tenants in New York City do not mean that a tenant will not eventually have to pay rent, but many owe far more than they are eligible to receive through ERAP, and as mentioned above, many tenants at risk for eviction have no legal counsel.
Is There a Long-Term Solution?
A rising number of evictions in New York City, a shortage of lawyers to represent tenants, and a lack of sufficient federal rent relief funds are all part of a larger, looming issue – the nation’s affordable housing crisis.
Tenants’ rights advocates want the New York State Legislature to pass “good cause” eviction legislation, which failed to pass in the last legislative session. Along with other provisions, the legislation would set a cap, tied to inflation, on how much residential landlords may raise rents.
Tenants’ rights advocates are also asking the State Legislature to increase the income limits on who may qualify for free legal assistance in a New York Housing Court.
Is New York City’s Shelter System in Crisis?
According to Patrick Tyrrell with Mobilization for Justice, “If we keep on this track . . . evictions are going up exponentially every month. And that would be terrible on a human level, because the shelter system is not equipped for that.”
In October of this year (2022), New York City’s homeless shelter population reached an all-time high – 62,174. The average lengths of stay in a shelter are also at all-time highs:
- On average, a single adult now stays in a shelter for 509 days.
- Families with children, on average, stay in a shelter for 534 days.
- Adult families, on average, stay in a shelter for 855 days.
City officials are attributing the shelter crisis, at least in part, to the massive influx of immigrants into the city this year. More than 19,000 immigrants have been processed this year by the city’s shelter intake system, and more immigrants continue to arrive in New York City every day.
What Are a Tenant’s Rights in New York City?
A New York City eviction attorney can advise and represent tenants who face eviction as well as tenants who are dealing with maintenance problems, unreasonable or illegal rent increases, and other infringements of tenants’ rights. Tenants’ rights in New York City include the right to:
- a receipt from your landlord when you pay rent
- have your eviction case heard by a judge
- live in a safe residence that is free of pests, leaks, or other damages
- make a good-faith complaint to your landlord without fear of retaliation
- reasonable accommodations if you are a disabled tenant
- receive advance notification of rent increases
Landlords also have rights, and landlord-tenant relationships do not have to be confrontational. A New York City housing lawyer can often act as a mediator between a landlord and a tenant and help those parties reach an agreement or understanding that is acceptable to both sides.
Most housing attorneys also handle cases that involve housing discrimination, landlord liability, and related housing issues. Whether you are a tenant or a landlord in New York City, a good housing attorney can offer the personalized advice and professional legal services you may need.