The 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.
However, there is another legal issue that may prevent evictions in New York State from resuming, even if Governor Cuomo’s statewide eviction moratorium is allowed to expire on August 31st. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has recently issued a new order which purports to temporarily halt evictions nationwide through October 3, 2021 in counties with heightened levels of community transmission in order to respond to recent, unexpected developments in the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the rise of the Delta variant. It is intended to target specific areas of the country where cases are rapidly increasing, which may be further exacerbated by mass evictions. This order would create a nationwide moratorium on evictions, under certain conditions. The timeframe on this moratorium extends past the potential expiration of the New York State moratorium, raising the possibility that evictions in New York may not resume on September 1, even if the state moratorium is not extended.
From a legal standpoint, serious questions have been raised as to whether this CDC order is constitutional. The CDC is a federal agency, and not a lawmaking body, such as our Congress is under our federal system. Court challenges are expected as to whether the CDC has the authority to enact such an order which would affect millions of landlords and tenants nationwide. Whether the Landlord-Tenant Courts in New York State will comply with the CDC order and stay evictions after the expiration of any state eviction moratorium is an open question at this point in time.
As a result, next month should be interesting as to whether evictions can proceed. Our firm will continue to monitor the complicated legal landscape regarding the situation in New York State, and will advise our clients accordingly.