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New York halts evictions due to coronavirus pandemic

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A suspension on court eviction proceedings took effect on Tuesday. Gov. Cuomo strengthened that edict with a 90-day eviction moratorium on Friday.

Max Touhey

Update: On March 20, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a 90-day moratorium on evictions for residential and commercial tenants, meaning no one can be evicted in New York state until at least June 20th. If you have questions about New York’s eviction moratorium, read our explainer for the latest on what this means for renters.

New York court officials have suspended eviction proceedings throughout the state amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, according to a March 15 memo from the state’s chief administrative judge.

Effective March 16 at 5 p.m., eviction proceedings and pending orders in housing court are suspended statewide until further notice as health officials work to curb the spread of COVID-19, Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks wrote in the memo to court employees. The suspension applies to both residential and commercial evictions, Lucian Chalfen, a spokesperson for the New York Office of Court Administration, confirmed.

The court system had initially issued a one-week moratorium in New York City on March 13, followed hours later by a coalition of 29 landlords pledging not to execute eviction warrants for 90 days. (Some of those firms, which represent some 150,000 rental apartments in the five boroughs, typically do not process evictions through housing court.)

The move to halt housing removals came after tenant advocates and elected officials decried the state’s lack of a moratorium, arguing that evictions during this public health crisis would drive up homelessness and worsen the spread of COVID-19.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters at a March 15 press conference that he had asked Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore to create a plan to limit traffic through the court system while maintaining crucial functions.

Housing court will remain open, but state officials “will be postponing all non-essential functions of the courts until further notice,” wrote Marks. Vital housing court functions such as proceedings for landlord lockouts, repair orders, and serious code violations will continue.

The Legal Services Staff Association, a union that represents court workers, lauded the announcement as “a huge victory for tenants and the tenant movement. And a desperately necessary step in protecting public health at a critical moment.”

Housing Justice for All—a coalition of tenants’ rights groups including Make the Road, New York Communities for Change, and the Met Council on Housing—spearheaded the push for a state-wide moratorium with a petition urging Cuomo and DiFiore to issue the ban on housing removals. Since last week, that petition has collected more than 16,000 signatures.

“Now is a moment when we need to double down and protect the people who are most vulnerable to this,” said Housing Justice for All spokesperson Cea Weaver. “This isn’t going away. We’re stuck with coronavirus; we have have to figure out how to deal with it.”