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Articles Posted in Landlord and Tenant

good-cause-eviction-1-678x381-1-300x169A recent article in the New York Post discusses a proposed bill relating to evictions which is being considered by the New York State legislature.  The “Good Cause” eviction bill would limit evictions in New York to only the narrowest of circumstances.

Since the expiration of the COVID-19 eviction moratorium in January, evictions have generally resumed in New York.  Under the moratorium, landlords were prevented from evicting tenants, unless they were an actual danger to people and property.  As COVID-19 waned, the Governor allowed the moratorium to expire.  As a result, landlord-tenant Courts have generally resumed normal operations, and tenants have been subject to evictions after proper Court proceedings have been held.

However, as a result of the temporary eviction moratorium, there have been some advocates who are attempting to further limit evictions, even though COVID-19 has waned and available vaccines have greatly reduced the risk factors for most individuals.  Under the proposed “Good Cause” eviction bill, landlords would not be allowed to evict tenants, except for non-payment of rent and lease violations.

maskOur readers may be pleased to hear that mask mandates are falling like dominoes throughout the area served by our attorneys.  This newfound attitude heralds a time of optimism.  However, the scars created by the COVID era remain, particularly with respect to commercial leases.  This post will examine some typical provisions in commercial leases that should be reconsidered and negotiated in light of changing times.

In many commercial leases, landlords will prefer strict definitions as to use of the premises and signage permitted on the premises.  For instance, if the tenant is a fitness facility, the landlord may draft the use clause very narrowly and identify the permitted use as a boxing fitness studio.  Should the tenant have difficulty in operating the location, he will not necessarily be able to sublet to another tenant unless the use is the same.  If this particular tenant could not operate a boxing fitness studio during a pandemic, how will he find another tenant who wants to use the space for the same narrow purpose?  As such, an experienced attorney  will ask the landlord to broaden the permitted use in the lease to fitness studio or any lawful use.

Flexibility  is also required with respect to alcohol sales, which may be restricted in a lease.  As our readers may recall, during the pandemic struggling restaurants were permitted to sell alcoholic beverages for takeout.  This was a lifeline for such businesses and should not be prohibited by a lease, which should permit alcohol sales in accordance with current law and not be further restricted by a landlord.  The open restaurants program  in New York City permitted restaurants to operate supplemental space on the sidewalk or in the street appurtenant to the restaurant.  Lease provisions requiring a tenant to keep the sidewalk clear should be modified to permit use as may be permitted by an open restaurant program.

hochul-300x169With the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, New York, along with many other states, adopted a law temporarily halting evictions.  In addition, there was an additional moratorium that prevented foreclosure cases from going forward in Court.

This blog post will focus on the eviction moratorium, its effects, and its expiration as of January 15, 2022.  The original moratorium went into effect in March of 2020.  The statute initially provided that if a landlord sought eviction against a tenant, the tenant could complete a form which stated that they were suffering from a COVID-19 related hardship which affected their health and ability to move, or from a financial hardship caused by COVID-19.  Once the form was completed and send to either the Court, the landlord, or the landlord’s attorney, the eviction proceeding would be stayed until the moratorium was lifted.

The main problem with this statute was that it provided a landlord no opportunity to rebut the tenant’s assertion that they were negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that such impact affected their ability to pay their rent, or to find new living arrangements.  A group of landlords challenged the constitutionality of that statute in a lawsuit.  Ultimately, the United States Supreme Court ruled that, in order for the statute to be constitutional, the landlords should have the right to challenge the tenant’s hardship declaration in Court.  Eventually, the moratorium statute was amended by the New York State legislature to allow landlords to request a hearing if they wanted to challenge a tenant’s hardship declaration in Court.  If the Court subsequently found that the tenant could not prove his allegations that he was suffering from a COVID-19 related hardship, then the Court could rule that the eviction moratorium did not apply to that particular case, and allow the eviction matter to proceed in its normal course.

Eviction-Notice-woth-face-mask-1280x720-1-300x169As readers of this blog may be aware, the events of 2020 and 2021 relating to the COVID-19 pandemic have had a significant effect on the status of landlord-tenant actions in New York State.  By a series of executive orders, then-Governor Cuomo stayed evictions from taking place in New York State, with the last extension of the eviction moratorium to end as of August 31, 2021.

Mr. Cuomo, however, is no longer governor of the State of New York.  Due to a series of scandals involving alleged sexual harassment, as well as his handling of nursing home patients infected with COVID-19, he resigned from his position as of August 24, 2021, and was replaced by Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul.

Governor Hochul, shortly after taking office, decided to take definitive action regarding the soon-to-be-expiring eviction moratorium.  She called a special session of the New York State Legislature, with the express purpose of extending the eviction moratorium.  As a result, the eviction moratorium in New York was extended through January 15, 2022.  However, due to a recent United States Supreme Court decision, landlords are permitted to have their day in Court to challenge a tenant’s claim that their ability to pay their rent was adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eviction-Moratorium-1-300x189-2The events of 2020 and 2021 relating to the COVID-19 pandemic have had a great effect on the status of landlord-tenant actions in New York State.  By a series of executive orders, Governor Cuomo stayed evictions from taking place in New York State for the last sixteen months. The current stay is due to expire on August 31, 2021.

Those who follow the news are aware that Governor Cuomo will shortly no longer be governor of New York, as he has resigned his position after a series of scandals involving alleged sexual harassment, as well as his handling of the COVID-19 situation.  In a few weeks, he will be replaced by Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul.

Whether Cuomo will extend the eviction moratorium before he leaves office is unknown at this time.  Also unknown is whether soon-to-be Governor Hochel intends to extend the eviction moratorium.  Under the current moratorium, tenants can avoid being evicted if they complete a form affirming that their ability to pay their rent, or their ability to locate a new residence, has been affected by COVID-19.  If the moratorium is not extended, it is possible that evictions in New York State will resume on September 1, 2021, and the Landlord-Tenant Courts will resume “business as usual” at that point.

guramrit-300x200A recent cover story in the New York Post relates the astonishing story of Guramrit Hanspal, who has lived in a house he doesn’t own for over twenty years.  However, for those attorneys experienced in the areas of foreclosure, landlord-tenant, and bankruptcy, Mr. Hanspal’s story, while certainly an outlier, is not actually that surprising.

According to the Post, Mr. Hanspal purchased a house in East Meadow, New York in 1998, with a mortgage loan from Washington Mutual Bank.  He made exactly one mortage payment before defaulting on his loan.  Of course, Washington Mutual Bank then commenced foreclosure proceedings against him in Supreme Court, Nassau County.  Foreclosure proceedings can take many years to be resolved in Court, and the foreclosure sale was not actually completed until the year 2000.  Our firm’s experience has shown that although the foreclosure case took approximately two years to be resolved, delays of five or even eight years are not unusual, especially if the borrower retains experienced counsel who can use completely legal methods to ensure that Court proceedings take significant time to be resolved.

Even though the foreclosure proceedings had been completed, Hanspal did not vacate the premises.  As prior blog posts have discussed, simply because a house is foreclosed, and sold to another owner (usually the lending institution simply takes back title to the property), does not mean that the owner is legally obligated to leave.  In order to evict a former owner, additional legal proceedings must be brought in the appropriate landlord-tenant forum.

talleyhouse-300x169A recent news story in the New York Post discusses a real property dispute between Andre Leon Talley, a former Vogue editor, and his (former) friend, George Malkemus III, who also worked in the fashion industry.  Mr. Malkemus is a former shoe executive who expanded Manolo Blahnik in the United States.

The dispute concerns ownership of a mansion located in White Plains, the same City in which our firm’s offices are located.  This post will discuss some of the legal issues involved in the property dispute.

The dispute started when Mr. Malkemus filed a Notice of Petition in Greenburgh Town Court late last year to evict Mr. Talley from the premises.  The Petition was filed after the necessary predicate notices were given to Mr. Talley.  The Petition also demanded back rent from Mr. Talley in an amount over $500,000.00, which is an unusually large amount to be demanded in a residential eviction action.

eviction-moratorium-2-600x270-1-300x135As readers of this blog may be aware, there is currently a moratorium on eviction cases in New York State.  This means that, with certain exceptions, new eviction cases cases cannot be filed with the appropriate Court, and cases which have already been commenced have been “stayed.”  Legally, a case which has been stayed cannot progress towards a resolution, such as a Judgment and Warrant of Eviction, while the stay remains in effect.  In addition, if a Court has already issued a Warrant of Eviction prior to the stay being in effect, the Marshal or Sheriff will generally not proceed with the actual removal of the tenant, unless certain exceptions apply.

Currently, there are two eviction stays in effect, one from New York State, and the other from the federal government.  These stays will be discussed further in this article.

The eviction stay in New York State is currently in effect until May 1, 2021.  However, there are several legal challenges to this stay.  The first involves the current scandal involving the Governor relating to the concealment of the exact figure of New York State nursing home deaths due to COVID-19.  As a result of this, and other controversies involving the Governor, there have been discussions of removing his emergency powers, which were granted to him due to the pandemic.  The executive orders staying New York State evictions were issued by Mr. Cuomo under these emergency powers.  If he his stripped of these powers, he will not have the necessary authority to extend the New York State moratorium when it expires on May 1.  As a result, evictions and eviction cases may resume at that time, unless the state legislature decides to pass emergency legislation extending the moratorium.

crown-300x224A recent story in the New York Post discusses a lawsuit brought by the City of New York against a prominent couple who are the owners and landlords of a brownstone located in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.  According to the allegations in the lawsuit, the couple sought to evict their tenants without any legal process.  In more detail, they are accused of, among other actions, using force and threatening to use force to induce occupants to vacate, removing occupants’ possessions from the Premises, and changing entrance door locks to the Premises without supplying replacement keys to the occupants.

The lawsuit seeks civil penalties for violations of the New York City Unlawful Eviction Law, as well as a permanent injunction prohibiting the owners from engaging in any further attempt at unlawful eviction of tenants and occupants, or any further tenant harassment.

Our firm has consulted with many landlords over the years regarding potential evictions of tenants.  One course of action that we would never advise a landlord to do is to attempt to evict the tenant themselves, without the benefit of the legal process.  While there are obviously many problem tenants, all tenants in New York State are protected by laws relating to evictions.  Any eviction must start by serving the tenants with the initial notices (known as predicate notices) which advise the tenants that an eviction action may be brought in the future, either because the lease has expired, or because the tenant has failed to pay rent due.

montauk-300x182A recent news story in the New York Post raises important issues regarding the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on evictions in New York State.  According to the report, an “Intragram influencer” named Marisa Hochberg owes at least $14,000.00 in past due rent on her summer rental in Montauk, and has refused to vacate the premises, even though her lease expired several months ago.

In ordinary times, an eviction action would be brought by the attorneys for the homeowners in the local landlord-tenant Court, seeking to evict the tenant.  In the Hochberg case, the tenant could be the subject of either a holdover action, or a non-payment action.  First, as her lease expired by its terms, this makes her a month-to-month tenant subject to termination on proper notice (holdover action).  Second, as she has failed to pay rent due, this also allows the possibility of a non-payment proceeding being brought against her.

However, as our readers are aware, these are not ordinary times.  Not all landlord-tenant courts, which are local in nature, are scheduling and hearing cases on a regular basis, due to COVID concerns.  Before attempting to file a case in a local landlord-tenant Court, experienced counsel should contact the Court directly to ensure that they are accepting and scheduling new cases.

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