Landlord Challenges Tenant's Hardship Declaration

LVT Number: #31673

Landlord of a two-family house sued to evict unregulated tenant with no lease in early 2020 after sending a 30-day termination notice. The parties settled the case in court on Jan. 21, 2020, giving landlord a judgment of possession with execution on an eviction warrant stayed through Feb. 28, 2020. Provided tenant moved out as agreed, landlord's claims for rent and use and occupancy and any defenses thereto were severed for a plenary action.

Landlord of a two-family house sued to evict unregulated tenant with no lease in early 2020 after sending a 30-day termination notice. The parties settled the case in court on Jan. 21, 2020, giving landlord a judgment of possession with execution on an eviction warrant stayed through Feb. 28, 2020. Provided tenant moved out as agreed, landlord's claims for rent and use and occupancy and any defenses thereto were severed for a plenary action. Before the eviction warrant was issued, all nonessential court proceedings and processes were postponed by the Governor's Executive Order on March 20, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In October 2020, landlord asked to restore the case to the court calendar for a ruling on issuance of the eviction warrant. Before a court date was assigned, New York enacted the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act (CEEFPA) on Dec. 28, 2020. This extended the eviction moratorium and allowed tenants to file Hardship Declarations to delay proceedings while the moratorium remained in effect.

Tenant then filed a Hardship Declaration and claimed "financial hardship" based on COVID-related factors. On Sep. 2, 2021, New York enacted L. 2021, Ch. 417, which added a mechanism for landlords to challenge the validity of a Hardship Declaration. Landlord then asked the court to rule on whether tenant's Hardship Declaration was valid. Landlord lived in the two-family house and observed, assisted by security cameras, that tenant regularly left for work at 3:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, consistent with his schedule throughout his occupancy. Landlord saw no change during the pandemic months, and said that tenant didn't wear a mask and that he saw no signs that tenant had any financial or health distress. Tenant argued that landlord failed to allege a "good faith belief" that tenant wasn't experiencing hardship sufficient enough to require a hearing.

The court disagreed with tenant, ruled for landlord, and set the matter down for a hearing in November.

Sanchez-Tiben v. Washington: Index No. 223/2020, 2021 NY Slip Op 21276, NYLJ No. 1635252350 (Civ. Ct. Bronx; 10/18/21; Lutwak, J)