BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) — The COVID-19 pandemic has created tremendous financial strain for some individuals and families as they struggle to pay rent. Despite orders from President Trump, Governor Cuomo and the CDC to limit evictions during the pandemic, there are still many people confused about what rights tenants and landlords currently have.
Attorney Katelyn Niedermier explained that landlords cannot take it upon themselves to evict anyone without a court order. Acts such as threats, turning off utilities or changing locks, are forms of illegal eviction.
"The landlords can be subject to not only civil penalties but criminal actions with fines that can be significant," said the attorney who works for Neighborhood Legal Services.
As to the confusion about the eviction moratorium, Niedermier said no evictions are currently allowed in New York State. "Even if you had a court case prior to COVID, as of today, you cannot be put out," added Niedermier.
Unsure where to turn for help? Experts recommend calling 2-1-1 for information about who to contact.
If you are facing a rent crisis, Neighborhood Legal Services, Inc. can provide free legal assistance for low-income individuals. The non-profit organization recommends people facing eviction contact them for help at (716) 847-0650.
Neighborhood Legal Services helps individuals living in Erie, Niagara, Orleans, Wyoming, and Genesee Counties.
Belmont Housing Resources for WNY provides help for people needing housing and acts as a counseling service for HUD. It can help tenants who are facing problems paying rent and direct them to programs that will help them become current.
The organization provided 7 Eyewitness News with a guidance sheet for landlords attempting to avoid eviction. You can read that tool sheet by clicking on this link.
Belmont Housing Resources will also be hosting online Zoom classes on this subject:
· How to build your “Renter’s Resume,”
· How to avoid rental scams,
· Creating a realistic spending plan,
· What apartment “red flags” to watch out for,
· Identifying fair housing violations,
· Apartment searching during COVID-19,
· What sources of funds for past due rent or first month’s rent are out there, and more!