COVID-19 in New York City: The Issue of Unpaid Rent

July 2, 2020 | Landlord-Tenant

As New York City begins to open after months of shut down, landlords are hopeful about collecting unpaid rents that have accumulated due to COVID-19’s impact on tenants. Under Executive Order 202.28, landlords are not entitled to, nor can they demand, any unpaid rent from tenants affected by COVID-19 related financial hardships until August 20, 2020.

COVID-19 has left landlords with limited options. As housing courts have slowly reopened, landlords may file for eviction proceedings. The Tenant Safe Harbor Act prohibits courts from evicting residential tenants that have suffered financial hardship during the COVID-19 covered period for non-payment of rent that “accrues or becomes due” during this COVID-19 covered period. However, courts are allowed to award monetary judgements for unpaid rent due and owed to the landlord.

There has also been proposed legislation such as the New York State Senate Bill S8140B. Senate Bill S8140B would establish an emergency rental assistance program that would give renters emergency vouchers for rent payment.

Unfortunately, landlords are forced to wait and see if the state or federal government will extend any relief to landlords and renters. Below are some suggestions and options that could help temporarily during this time:

  • Work together to maintain a level of flexibility in the landlord-tenant relationship
  • Maintain an open line of communication
  • Renegotiate rent rates with tenants
  • Create new agreements with tenants to collect portions of their rent
  • Enter into a written agreement stating the security deposit can be used as a rent payment

Most importantly, ensure any revisions or changes in landlord-tenant agreements are formalized in writing.

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