Landlord Who Questions Tenant's Hardship Declaration Is Entitled to Hearing

LVT Number: #31682

Landlord, who lived in a three-family house, sued to evict an unregulated tenant who lived in another apartment in the house after the tenancy was terminated in 2019. The court ruled for landlord in October 2020, awarding a judgment and issuing an eviction warrant. The warrant was delayed after the CEEFPA was issued on Dec. 28, 2020, and tenant filed a hardship declaration. Tenant filed an amended Hardship Declaration in September 2020, claiming that she had both suffered a financial hardship and that she had a medical condition.

Landlord, who lived in a three-family house, sued to evict an unregulated tenant who lived in another apartment in the house after the tenancy was terminated in 2019. The court ruled for landlord in October 2020, awarding a judgment and issuing an eviction warrant. The warrant was delayed after the CEEFPA was issued on Dec. 28, 2020, and tenant filed a hardship declaration. Tenant filed an amended Hardship Declaration in September 2020, claiming that she had both suffered a financial hardship and that she had a medical condition.

Landlord challenged tenant's Hardship Declaration. While not contesting that tenant had a medical condition of the kind covered in CEEFPA and the more recent L. 2021, Ch. 417, landlord argued that the pandemic could not have affected tenant's income because public assistance supported tenant both before and during the pandemic. Landlord knew this because she received tenant's rent payments from the NYC Human Resources Administration (HRA).

Tenant answered that she contracted COVID-19 in early 2021, which damaged her lungs and cardiovascular system. She now tried to stay in the apartment as much as possible to avoid further infection, and that the pandemic increased the amounts of money that she had to spend to avoid contact with others and infection. For example, she took taxis instead of public transportation, and paid for masks, hand sanitizers, and cleansers. Landlord replied that she saw tenant coming and going, and entertaining guests with loud music and marijuana that was heard and smelled from the apartment.

The court granted landlord's request for a hearing on whether tenant's Hardship Declaration was valid. Landlord sufficiently showed a good faith belief that tenant hadn't experienced a hardship and that a hearing was warranted. The court would schedule a pre-hearing conference with the parties to determine the hearing mechanics.

Bitzarkis v. Evans: Index No. 81766/2019, 2021 NY Slip Op 21280 (Civ. Ct. Kings; 10/20/21; Stoller, J)