Tenant advocates say further action needed to protect renters during COVID-19 pandemic

NY Capitol News

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Some tenant advocates say Governor Andrew Cuomo’s latest executive order extending the residential eviction moratorium until January 1, 2021 doesn’t go far enough.

In March, Governor Cuomo put out his first residential eviction moratorium executive order. In June, he signed the Tenant Safe Harbor Act, which protects renters who have experienced financial hardship during the COVID-19 State of Emergency from eviction. His latest executive order expands the protections of that law through the end of the year. But some tenant advocates say there’s been confusion. 

“We’ve seen that across the state landlords are moving forward with serving notices of eviction giving tenants two weeks to contest the case or be evicted. And since the tenants don’t understand what they need to do in order to contest the case, my guess is that a lot of people are going to get evicted who might have been covered by the executive order,” said Ellen Davidson with the Legal Aid Society.

Another issue is that in some cases rent payments are adding up.

“When we have people that are calling us, you know, it used to be two or three months of rent due, and now it’s four or five six months of rent, so it makes it a lot harder for cases to, you know, be favorably resolved, because there hasn’t been any rental assistance that’s come through, which is really what’s needed,” said Robert Romaker with the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York.

Romaker says it would benefit renters and landlords. 

“We need tenant rental assistance so when the cases are resumed, people have a fighting chance in being able to save their tenancies and so landlords can get their payment and make their mortgage payment, pay their taxes and insurance and all the things like that,” he said.

The Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York is one of several groups that has received a grant from the state Attorney General’s Office to “provide support for tenants facing eviction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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