State Democrats to pass eviction moratorium extension through January 15, 2022

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Posted at 4:27 PM, Sep 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-01 18:01:56-04

DEPEW, N.Y. (WKBW)  — “This is our livelihood.”

Western New York landlord, Kevin Nowak is frustrated by the state’s likely extension of its eviction moratorium through January 15 2022.

“In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling to strike down the federal eviction moratorium, the Senate Majority is taking action to adjust and extend the state's eviction moratorium to ensure that thousands of New Yorkers are protected from losing their homes and at the same time helping small landlords," Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. "The Senate Democratic Majority will continue to fight to keep people in their homes and ensure that every individual who qualifies for these protections receives them. New York State's government must work effectively to address the needs of New Yorkers.”

The legislation being passed by the Senate Majority will:

  • Extend the residential and commercial eviction and foreclosure moratorium to January 15, 2022.
  • Allow residents of localities that opted out of the statewide program to apply for financial assistance through the State program if their locality has exhausted all of its funds.
  • Expand the eviction protections in the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program (CERAP) to residents of localities that have applied for assistance through a program administered by a locality that opted out of the statewide program.
  • Add a nuisance standard to CERAP’s eviction protections to provide landlords with a basis to start an eviction proceeding against a covered tenant if a tenant is a nuisance or has inflicted substantial damage to a property.
  • Create a due process mechanism for landlords to challenge the Hardship Declaration submitted by residential and commercial tenants and for banks and mortgage holders to challenge the Declaration submitted by property owners to avoid foreclosure, and direct judges to require residential tenants to apply for CERAP if their hardship claim is valid.
  • Authorize the Office of Court Administration (OCA) to access limited CERAP application information in order to allow the court to determine whether to stay an eviction proceeding.
  • Extend the period covered by the Tenant Safe Harbor Act to January 15, 2022.
  • Increase the appropriation for CERAP from $2.35 billion to $2.6 billion and amend the appropriation to allow these funds to be allocated to residents of localities that opted out of the Statewide program.
  • Increase the Hardship Fund from $100 million to $250 million and provide for the fund to be used for tenants whose incomes are between 80% -120% AMI, landlords whose tenants vacated their property with rent unpaid, and landlords whose tenants are unresponsive or uncooperative.
  • Provide a new $25 million appropriation to fund legal services for tenants facing evictions.
  • Additionally, authorize any state or local public body to hold virtual public meetings until January 15, 2022.

“I understand there’s the people who do need the help. But, they’re doing it for a lot of people who don’t need the help. They are just being opportunistic,” Nowak said.

Nowak owns 65 properties across western New York, and said he’s owed about $60,000 in back rent from a handful of tenants. “It’s blatant criminality and that’s what’s frustrating.”

State Republicans also expressed concerns about extending the eviction moratorium once again. They argued it has already hurt the state’s housing market and said it now threatens to further infringe on the rights of already struggling property owners. “That isn’t solving anything. All we’re doing is punting. We’re kicking the can down the road to January.We’re not addressing the real issue,” said N.Y.S. Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt.

In January, the state received $2.7 billion in federal emergency rental assistance funding for landlords and tenants. The money was mostly meant to help tenants struggling to make ends meet pay the rent. But the state program handling the money, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, known as ERAP, faced intense scrutiny for its roll out. In fact, it only began receiving applications for the funds in June, some six months after the money was received from Washington. So far, roughly $203 million in direct payments have been made to 15,000 landlords, according to state officials.

“That money, NY didn’t distribute very well. The new governor is going to get that money out,” said Senator Charles Schumer during a stop in Basom, Genesee County, on Wednesday.

Landlords like Kevin Nowak aren’t holding their breath. He’s now trying to sell some of his properties to no avail. “Their concern is how long will this last? I’ve even offered them half in back rent if we can do the deal and it’s still just not enough.”

For more information on the rental assistance program, or how to apply, click here.