New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has announced that the Assembly has passed the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020, which will help New York tenants and homeowners who are struggling to make ends meet due to the COVID-19 pandemic stay in their homes.
“As more and more families struggle financially through no fault of their own due to this global pandemic, many are now at risk of losing their homes. This bill builds on the work we did in May, and will keep New Yorkers from facing eviction or foreclosure because of the pandemic. The Assembly Majority will not stop working to address the challenges facing our communities,” said Speaker Heastie. “I want to thank all the members of the Assembly Majority, particularly bill sponsor Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz and Housing Committee Chair Steven Cymbrowitz, as well as Assemblymembers Karines Reyes, Alicia Hyndman, Harvey Epstein and Sandy Galef for their advocacy and hard work to protect New Yorkers during this terrible healthcare crisis.”
“This is critical legislation that will help New Yorkers who are worried about whether they will have a roof over their head during a pandemic,” Judiciary Committee Chair Jeffrey Dinowitz said. “We will continue to go to bat for New York families, and ensure that those that find themselves trying to make ends meet during a pandemic have the resources they need.”
“The Assembly Majority has always fought to ensure New Yorkers have access to safe, affordable housing, and that commitment is more important than ever this year as so many are facing illness, loss of loved ones, loss of income, food insecurity and other issues associated with the pandemic,” said Housing Committee Chair Steven Cymbrowitz. “No one should have to deal with the life-altering burden of eviction or foreclosure during these dangerous times. The stay on evictions and foreclosures provided by this bill will help ensure that no one is put out on the street as we continue to look for long-term solutions to the financial crisis that renters, homeowners and small landlords are facing.”
The COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 will help tenants facing financial hardship during the pandemic to stay in their homes. The legislation will protect through May 1, 2021 residential tenants at risk of non-payment or holdover eviction who can attest to a financial or health-related hardship. Once enacted, all residential eviction related matters would be placed on hold for 60 days.
The only evictions against a tenant that could move forward under this proposal would be against those tenants who fail to certify or are not experiencing a financial or health-related hardship, or are found by the courts to be persistently and unreasonably engaging in behavior that substantially infringes upon their neighbors or causes a substantial safety hazard to others.
The Office of Court Administration (OCA) will be required to publish an easy to read “hardship declaration form” for tenants. Once filed a hardship declaration would qualify as proof of financial hardship supporting a defense under the Tenant Safe Harbor Act and any other law or executive order under which a financial hardship defense is available.
The Tenant Safe Harbor Act, which passed the Assembly in May and was signed into law, provided a defense of financial hardship and has allowed thousands of financially challenged tenants to remain in their homes. This complimentary legislation recognizes that with COVID-19 again on the rise, access to the courts has been restricted, and it may be dangerous for individuals to appear in court.
Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Protections
The bill will also protect homeowners suffering from financial hardship against mortgage foreclosure as a result of the pandemic. It will freeze residential mortgage foreclosure proceedings for 60 days, and allow certain homeowners who own 10 or fewer residential dwellings, including their primary residence to obtain a stay of mortgage foreclosure and tax lien sales until May 1, 2021. It will also ensure that while the stay is in effect, no other foreclosure action can be commenced to recover the unpaid mortgage or delinquent taxes.
These homeowners would also be protected from adverse reporting to any credit reporting agency and from discrimination in credit decisions made by lending institutions related to a stay of mortgage or tax foreclosure proceedings, tax lien sales or if they are in arrears and file a hardship declaration until May 1, 2021.
Protections for Seniors and Disabled Homeowners
The COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 will also help seniors and New Yorkers with disabilities stay in their homes by requiring every locality and local assessor to automatically renew the Senior Citizens Homeowner Exemption (SCHE) and the Disabled Homeowner Exemption (DHE) on the 2021 assessment roll.
This will require local assessors to make renewal applications available through mail or electronic means, and will allow localities to adopt a local law or resolution to require renewal applications to be filed where an owner’s eligibility may have changed. It would also prohibit localities and local assessors from requiring homeowners to appear in person to file a renewal application for any reason.
Earlier this year, the Legislature passed a package of legislation to address challenges our communities faced during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, including bills to help New Yorkers stay in their homes. But as hundreds of thousands of Americans have died and millions more are struggling financially through no fault of their own, Washington has failed to act when we needed them most.
Even with the stimulus bill that was finally signed last night, there is uncertainty over how soon the limited funding it provides will reach New Yorkers. The Assembly Majority knows that this bill is just one step, and will continue to work with our congressional delegation, with the incoming Biden Administration, and across all levels of government to bring relief and aid to New Yorkers.