An Update on COVID and the Courts in New York

justice-300x200At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, all of the Courts in New York State closed for health and safety reasons.  Recently, as the numbers of those afflicted in New York continue to decrease, some Courts are reopening.  This blog post will discuss the current situation as of the writing of this post, and how this effects certain practice areas covered by our firm.

Foreclosure matters, generally heard in New York State Supreme Court, are still subject to a stay from Governor Cuomo’s executive order.  It is possible that the stay may be lifted next month, but, at this point, no foreclosure cases are proceeding in the Courts.  This stay also applies to the filing of new foreclosure actions.

Other real estate litigation, such as partition actions, are proceeding, generally as usual.  A partition action occurs when a co-owner of real property no longer wishes to co-own the property.  Litigation is commenced by the co-owner, which will allow the property to be sold with the proceeds shared between the owners.  If an owner does not want to sell, they must agree to purchase the interest of the other owner at a fair price.  Courts are accepting new partition actions for filing, and cases are proceeding relatively normally through the Court system.  However, due to health concerns, in-person appearances at courthouses are being limited.  As a result, many appearances are being made by telephone or video-conferencing.  In addition, motions and pleadings can be filed through e-courts, limiting the need for attorneys to physically appear at courthouses.  Whether this situation will change in the future, as conditions to continue to improve in New York, is unknown at this point.

Landlord-tenant actions are an area of the law greatly affected by COVID-19.  New York State issued a moratorium on evictions and the filing of new eviction matters, which is due to expire on August 20.  Although the eviction order was only meant to apply to the initiation or enforcement of eviction (and foreclosure) proceedings for anyone whose inability to pay has been caused by COVID-19 related financial hardship, our firm’s experience has shown that local landlord-tenant Courts are not currently scheduling new cases, whether they are non-payment cases, or holdovers.  Each local Court is handling matters differently, so we recommend consulting experienced counsel to decide whether to proceed with a landlord-tenant action.  In addition, almost all landlord-tenant proceedings require predicate notices to be sent to the tenant prior to commencing an action in Court.  Our firm is therefore advising clients to have our attorneys prepare and serve such notices now, so that when the Courts finally accept new cases for filing, an action can be filed immediately.

The COVID-19 virus and our reactions to same have caused many changes in the legal landscape.  Our firm continues to monitor all Court proceedings for the best method to serve our client’s needs, and we hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during these times.


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