New York’s largest landlord group has threatened to sue the state Legislature if lawmakers extend the pandemic-era eviction moratorium, which is set to expire Tuesday — a new measure that sources say could last until Jan. 15 — claiming the law is unjust.
“If New York State legislators enact legislation that ignores and attempts to circumvent the SCOTUS decision, we will immediately pursue legal action, this time seeking damages,” said Joe Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 building owners and managers in over one million apartments across the five boroughs.
After the RSA and a group of small landlords filed an emergency injunction against the measure, the United States Supreme Court on August 12 struck down a portion of the Empire State’s law allowing tenants to self-attest to COVID-19-related income loss in a hardship declaration form. Landlords argue that the program made it difficult to defend tenants’ claims, putting an unfair burden on their ability to collect rent, maintain building upkeep, and pay property taxes.
Tenants who are having trouble paying their rent can still go to court, but the law is set to expire on Tuesday, August 31 at 11:59 p.m. unless lawmakers negotiate and pass a renewal.
“SCOTUS was very clear in striking down elements of New York’s eviction moratorium, and again last week when it overturned the Biden Administration’s eviction moratorium – that these bans are unconstitutional and unlawfully place enormous burdens on property owners,” said Strasburg, telling The Post he is still waiting to review changes to the legislation.
In a closed-door meeting Monday, Democratic lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly discussed changes negotiated over the weekend, and sources said a program extension through Jan. 15, 2022 is on the table.
One key aspect of negotiations, according to officials briefed on the matter, is to give landlords better recourse to challenge tenants’ hardship claims — the portion of the law challenged by landlords and struck down.
Lawmakers have also been told to schedule a trip back to Albany on Wednesday for a special session vote on the updated law.
Gov. Kathy Hochul has stated that she supports the law’s extension and has met with Sen. Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx).
“There are still active and ongoing discussions regarding expanding [the] eviction moratorium and any legislative action. We’ll have more to announce soon,” Hochul senior communications advisor Haley Viccaro told The Post. She also said the governor’s office does not comment on “pending or potential litigation,” when asked about the RSA’s threat to sue over the anticipated update to the law.
The state will also spend another $1 million on public awareness efforts to encourage New Yorkers to apply, according to the new governor.
However, distributing the federal $2.6 billion rent relief funding in the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program has been a major stumbling block.
The state agency in charge of distributing funds, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, reported that just over $200 million had been paid out as of August 23 — despite the fact that only 8% of the total pot had been distributed.
OTDA has been chastised for rolling out the program slowly, opening applications for struggling tenants and landlords in early June, months after the funds had been allocated.
If their application is approved, individuals are protected from eviction for up to one year, and applicants are also protected while their documents are being processed prior to approval.
Tenant advocates argue that the moratorium should be renewed because ending it will force thousands of people who have been economically harmed by the pandemic into city shelters, posing a new public health risk.