New York Eviction Moratorium FAQ

Written by JustFix.nyc
Updated 08/18/2020

Since the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) became a global pandemic and national health crisis in the United States, New York City’s residents have experienced extreme loss and disruption and shown great resilience as this pandemic touches every corner of daily life. There have been changes in tenant rights and housing laws as well, most notably New York’s eviction moratorium, a temporary suspension of all eviction proceedings across New York in support of safety and “stay-at-home” orders that help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The implications of an eviction moratorium on each individual’s housing circumstances can be more complex than they seem, and there have been several changes to the NY eviction moratorium since it was first enacted. That’s why JustFix.nyc has created this guide to share the most up-to-date information and resources available.

Please be advised that JustFix.nyc is not a public health authority. Those seeking medical information or assistance should contact a medical professional and review resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO),  and the NYC Health Department.

What is an eviction moratorium?

Generally speaking, an eviction moratorium is the temporary suspension of evictions, and/or eviction proceedings, combined with the specific conditions outlined by an eviction freeze order that accompanies it. Many regions of the country have enacted eviction moratoriums during the COVID-19 health crisis, acknowledging that “stay-at-home” orders have restricted many tenants’, landlords’, and business owners’ ability to earn income and therefore pay rent and/or mortgages. However, the specific conditions of an eviction moratorium differ depending on the individual laws of each state and city. It’s also important to note that an eviction moratorium does not typically equate to rent cancellation or suspension.

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What does the NYC eviction moratorium mean for me?

NY’s first eviction moratorium went into effect on March 16, 2020, but the law has gone through multiple revisions since then. Thanks largely to ongoing organizing efforts from the tenant movement, New York State passed a new COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Act on December 28, 2020. This act provides more comprehensive protections against evictions in New York, pausing all pending eviction causes until at least February 26, 2021.

Tenants who have suffered financial hardships due to the coronavirus can also submit a hardship declaration to their borough’s housing court or to their landlord, allowing them to be protected from eviction until May 1, 2021. Learn more about the requirements of the hardship declaration from the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition (RTC NYC)—you can also use the new Eviction Free NY tool designed by JustFix.nyc, RTC NYC, and Housing Justice For All, to fill out and send your declaration form to both the court and your landlord, all in one place, and at no-cost to you! 

In addition to the Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Act, New York tenants can be protected from evictions in one of two additional ways:

  1. Under the CDC’s eviction moratorium, or

  2. Under Governor Cuomo’s expansion of the Tenant Safe Harbor Act.

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What about housing courts?

Housing Courts across the city are now open to the public—the number of people allowed into the courts is limited and most cases are being heard virtually, over web conferencing platforms or by phone. Tenants are able to file cases for all kinds of repairs. Landlords are able to sue tenants by both physical mail and electronically. However, thanks to the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Act, all eviction-related cases are on hold until the end of February 2021, and tenants who submit a hardship declaration form may delay their eviction case until May 1, 2021.

Tenants still need to respond to nonpayment court papers—review the latest from Housing Court Answers for more information on the ways you can respond. Landlords can file new cases electronically but must file a motion in court in order to evict tenants on cases filed before the pandemic. If you receive notice that your case is being heard, you can call the Housing Court Answers hotline to ask questions about your situation and get connected to an attorney. The hotline is available Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM at 212-962-4795. You can also read more guidance from the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition.

Tenants are still able to sue their landlord for repairs and/or harassment in what is called an HP Action. Previously, the court was only virtually open for Emergency HP Actions, but now, tenants should be able to take their landlords to court for non-emergency issues as well.

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What happens after the moratorium ends?

Although recent laws protect tenants from eviction, they do not include the rent forgiveness that housing justice organizers continue to demand. Right to Counsel NYC Coalition (RTC NYC), a group of tenants, organizers, advocates, and legal services organizations who run campaigns to stop the eviction crisis in New York City, are organizing to cancel rent, among other demands and are pushing to keep the eviction moratorium in place through the entirety of the public health crisis. Making changes like this takes a massive effort by as many tenants as possible. But it works. And you can easily take action to help ensure that all evictions, including yours, stay suspended by signing the petition to cancel rent and change housing court.

Learn more about your rights in the face of landlord harassment during COVID-19 and read more frequently asked eviction questions.

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What if I can’t pay rent?

The New York eviction moratorium does not include a rent freeze or rent forgiveness—you are still obligated to pay rent. However, those protected under the new COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Act cannot be evicted due to non-payment of rent until at least February 26, 2021. Tenants who submit a hardship declaration may be protected from eviction until May 1, 2021.

You can join JustFix.nyc, Right to Counsel NYC Coalition, and other partners in the fight for housing justice calling for rent and mortgage suspension in NY as COVID-19 continues to impact our communities.

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What if I am illegally locked out of my building?

If you’ve been illegally locked out of your building, you can contact your borough’s housing court  to start a proceeding called “restored to possession” and begin an illegal lockout case. You can also contact any legal service provider in your area to request their support. You can learn more about how to find a tenant lawyer here.

In April 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Human Resources Administration’s (HRA) Office of Civil Justice (OCJ) and 311 launched a new free initiative to also provide more legal services to tenants. Simply call 311 and ask for the “Tenant Helpline” so that you can be connected to a Public Engagement Unit (PEU) Tenant Support Specialist and receive free, individualized assistance.

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Stay Up to Date with Information from Our Partners

Unlock NYC

Unlock NYC has built a free tool to report any time that someone has told you “We don’t take housing vouchers”, or a related phrase.

Right to Counsel NYC Coalition

The Right to Counsel NYC Coalition is a group of tenants, organizers, advocates, and legal services organizations who run campaigns to stop the eviction crisis in New York City. Their COVID-19 resources include:

Housing Court Answers

Housing Court Answers is an organization that educates and empowers tenants and small homeowners without lawyers to navigate and represent themselves in housing court. They host a hotline to answer questions related to housing law, rent arrears assistance, general housing court questions, and homelessness prevention. Their service information is the following:

  • Free to any tenant living in New York City.

  • Schedule is Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM.

  • Available in any language.

  • Phone number is (212) 962-4795.

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