ALBANY — New York’s largest landlord group is threatening to sue the state Legislature if lawmakers extend the pandemic-era eviction moratorium slated to expire Tuesday — a new measure that sources say could run through Jan. 15 — arguing the law negatively impacts property owners.
“If New York State lawmakers enact legislation that disregards and attempts to circumvent the decision by SCOTUS, we will immediately take legal action, this time asking for damages,” said Joe Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association — a trade association that represents 25,000 building owners and managers in over one million apartments throughout the five boroughs.
The Aug. 12 U.S. Supreme Court decision struck down a portion of the Empire State’s law permitting tenants to self attest to COVID-19 related income loss in a hardship declaration form, after the RSA and a group of small landlords filed an emergency injunction against the measure. Landlords argue the program made it challenging to counter tenant claims, unfairly burdening their ability to collect revenue and maintain building upkeep as well as pay property taxes.
Struggling tenants are still allowed to make their case in court, but the law is on track to expire Tuesday, Aug. 31 at 11:59 p.m. unless lawmakers negotiate and pass a renewal to the law.
“SCOTUS was very clear in striking down elements of New York’s eviction moratorium, and again last week when it overturned the Biden Administration’s eviction moratorium – that these bans are unconstitutional and unlawfully place enormous burdens on property owners,” said Strasburg, telling The Post he is still waiting to review changes to the legislation.
Democratic lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly discussed changes negotiated over the weekend in a closed-door conference Monday, and sources said a program extension through Jan. 15, 2022 is on the table.
Officials briefed on the matter told The Post that one key aspect of negotiations are centered around providing better recourse for landlords to challenge tenants’ hardship claims — the portion of the law disputed by landlords and struck down.
Lawmakers have also been told to block off this coming Wednesday to head back up to Albany for a special-session vote on the updated law.
Gov. Kathy Hochul has said she supports extending the law and has been in talks with Sen. Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx).
“There are still active and ongoing discussions regarding expanding [the] eviction moratorium and any legislative action. We’ll have more to announce soon,” Hochul senior communications advisor Haley Viccaro told The Post. She also said the governor’s office does not comment on “pending or potential litigation,” when asked about the RSA’s threat to sue over the anticipated update to the law.
The new governor previously said the state will also spend another $1 million on public awareness efforts encouraging New Yorkers to apply.
But a major roadblock has also centered around distributing the federal $2.6 billion rent relief funding in the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
The Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the state agency responsible for distributing funds, said just over $200 million total had been paid out as of August 23 — although just 8 percent has been dispersed from the entire pot available.
OTDA has been roundly criticized for slow rolling the program, opening program applications at the beginning of June for struggling tenants and landlords months after the money was allocated.
Individuals are protected from evictions for up to one year if their application is approved, and applicants are also protected while their documents are being processed prior to approval.
Tenant advocates argue a renewal is needed and ending the moratorium will force thousands of individuals economically hurt by the pandemic into city shelters, creating a new public health threat.
Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo initially signed an executive order at the pandemic’s start, declaring the stay on evictions part of the COVID-19 emergency. The program has been renewed several times in New York over the last year.
A federal moratorium on evictions was put in place last September, but recently expired in July. It was then briefly renewed by the Biden administration on Aug, 3 sans congressional approval, before being struck down last week in another SCOTUS ruling.