- Evictions in New York state will soon resume.
- But many struggling tenants still have options that could help them stay in their homes.
- Those include applying for rental assistance and seeking free legal representation.
Throughout most of the pandemic, New Yorkers have been shielded from eviction thanks to a statewide moratorium on the proceedings.
That protection will come to an end on Saturday, and tenant advocates fear that many could be pushed out of their homes as a result.
By one estimate, more than 590,000 families in the Empire State remain behind on their rent. More than 40% of those households have children.
“It’s going to be painful,” said Cea Weaver, a housing advocate and campaign coordinator for Housing Justice for All, a statewide coalition of more than 80 organizations representing tenants and the homeless.
Here’s what struggling New Yorkers need to know.
You can apply for rental assistance
To address the renters’ crisis triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, Congress has allocated more than $45 billion in aid. If approved, tenants can get up to 18 months of their rent covered.
Yet more than 60% of renters in arrears in New York haven’t applied for the relief, according to an analysis by the National Equity Atlas.
“Tenants behind on rent who haven’t yet applied for emergency rental assistance should do so immediately,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
Doing so may lead to your debt being wiped out. In addition, you cannot be evicted while you have an application pending.
New York’s rental assistance web portal was recently shut down by the state after it had been barraged with applications, but a state Supreme Court ruling ordered it to resume accepting requests, Yentel said.
Landlords who refuse the aid may not be allowed to evict a tenant for 12 months, she added.
Talking with your landlord can really help
When the national ban on evictions lifted in August, the proceedings didn’t pick up as much as some had expected, according to research by The Eviction Lab.
One reason for that surprise may be that after nearly two years of a pandemic, landlords have had to look for collection strategies beyond the threat of eviction, said Peter Hepburn, an assistant professor of sociology at Rutgers University-Newark and a research fellow at The Eviction Lab.
“Eviction moratoria took that option off the table for an extended period of time, forcing landlords to find new ways to work with tenants,” Hepburn said.
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Before the public health crisis, just 3% of landlords forgave rent when a tenant fell behind, the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University found. Yet during the crisis, more than 1 in 5 did.
As a result, experts say it’s more important than ever to reach out to your property manager.
“Tenants who have fallen behind on rent often try to avoid their landlords and skirt conflict, but that can send the wrong signal,” Hepburn said. “It can be much more effective to keep channels of communication open.”
A lawyer can help you stay in your home
Anyone at risk of eviction should seek legal representation as soon as possible. You can find low-cost or free legal help with an eviction at Lawhelp.org.
If you’re located in one of the five boroughs of New York City, you may be entitled to a lawyer at no cost.
A recent report found that more than 80% of tenants who had a lawyer in housing court in the city were able to stay in their homes.