On July 14, 43 members of the New York State Assembly, led by Minority Leader Will Barclay, delivered a letter to House Speaker Carl Heastie (D- Bronx) requesting a special session to address the still-in-place moratorium on evictions.
The value of protecting tenants with the moratorium versus the harm it is inflicting upon landlords has been debated almost since its implementation in early 2020. Landlords and their advocates point to the almost irreparable harm they have faced in having to maintain properties for which, in many cases, they are receiving little or no rent. Most people agreed that in the early stage of the pandemic, with widespread unemployment and much of the country locked down, protecting people from being put out of their homes was important.
Sixteen months later, with things largely returning to normal, the 43 members of the State Assembly argue that it is time to lift the moratorium and ease the burden on landlords across the state.
The crux of the argument is that although the state has largely followed the path taken by the federal government throughout the pandemic, the moratorium is set to continue until at least September, a month past the date which the federal government’s moratorium will expire.
“Why does the state proclaim to follow federal guidance in so many other areas, but ignore it with respect to the rights of landlords” the letter asks?
The members want the special session as a means to end the moratorium early. At first glance, the numbers statewide may indicate the time is right. According to the Mayo Clinic, more than 61 percent of New Yorkers have received at least once dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The New York Times reports 56 percent of residents are fully vaccinated, and among the most vulnerable population, those 65 and over, that number jumps to 80 percent. An anecdotal look at the job market across the state as seen through the lens of employers struggling to fill open positions indicates the employment crisis is largely over as well. But the numbers only tell one part of the story.
We work firsthand with many clients who have taken huge hits to their rental property portfolio in the last 16 months. They have struggled to keep afloat, but the reality is, ending the moratorium, without a more comprehensive plan in place, will not do enough to ease their burdens.
If the ban were lifted tomorrow, and landlords could evict tenants for non-payment, that will not help them collect the months and months of rent they have missed out on. While they can certainly sue their tenants, in most cases, the tenants likely will not have the assets to satisfy a judgement. We could see a scenario where the landlords still don’t get the money, the tenants are out on the street, and the courts face a logjam of these cases crowding their dockets.
While the letter from the members of New York’s Assembly may be well-intentioned, we are warning our clients who own rental property not to celebrate just yet. Without a plan in place to offer relief to landlords from mortgage payments and/or property taxes, any push to end the moratorium will be a hollow initiative that falls well short of what both sides need.
Nicholas J. Ingrassia is an attorney and shareholder of Gross Shuman P.C. He concentrates his law practice in the areas of Real Estate & Development, Banking & Finance, and Business & Corporate Law. Mr. Ingrassia also has extensive experience assisting clients with Estate Planning & Administration, and Canada-U. S. Cross Border legal issues. He is admitted to practice in New York State and as a Foreign Legal Consultant in Ontario, Canada. He can be reached at 716.854.4300 ext. 285 or firstname.lastname@example.org.