By Eileen O’Toole, Esq., Contributing Editor
During late August and early September, the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS), the NY State Legislature, and the New York Court system again enacted laws or issued decisions concerning the extension of federal and NY State eviction moratoriums.
In Ala. Ass’n of Realtors v. HHS (LVT #31621), SCOTUS issued a stay on Aug. 26, 2021, of the nationwide eviction moratorium that had been issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) after the Congressional moratorium expired in July. Meanwhile, in response to the earlier August ruling by SCOTUS in Chrysafis v. Marks (LVT #31566), which barred enforcement of Part A of NY’s COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act (CEEFPA), the NY State Legislature passed a Moratorium Extension bill on Sept. 2 (LVT #31617). This new law revived the NY eviction moratorium (which had expired on Aug. 31) through Jan. 15, 2022. The Moratorium Extension continues to require landlords to send Hardship Declaration forms to tenants with all predicate notices and court papers involved in eviction proceedings. But, reflecting the Chrysafis decision, the Moratorium Extension law also provides for landlord court challenges if the grounds for a tenant’s Hardship Declaration are in good faith questioned.
The NY State court system responded quickly to the Moratorium Extension with two administrative orders. AO 261/21 (LVT #31619) explains how landlords can seek a ruling if they believe in good faith that a tenant who filed a Hardship Declaration suffered no such COVID-related hardship. And AO 262/21 (LVT #31620) describes similar procedures applicable in mortgage foreclosure actions. The NYC Housing Court also issued DRP-218 (LVT #31618), which establishes an Intake Part for all new cases where attorneys can be assigned to respondents. After that initial appearance, cases are still assigned to Resolution Parts.
While hardship declaration issues continue to delay movement in many pending eviction proceedings, there are some unique decisions this month from the courts. In Morales v. 1160 Cromwell Crown LLC (LVT #31578), where a tenant brought an HP proceeding against the landlord, the court found that it could “enforce” a DHCR rent reduction order where the DHCR found a reduction in services for a condition even though HPD had found no condition warranting a violation. And, in 2114 Realty v. Estate of Sanabria (LVT #31610), where a deceased tenant’s son responded to a nonpayment claim against a rent-stabilized tenant’s estate and claimed succession rights, the court ruled that the son had to pay use and occupancy while the case was pending even though there was no determination as yet of any landlord-tenant relationship between those parties.
The DHCR applied HSTPA provisions in a case concerning major capital improvements and denied MCI rent increases for “groupwork” in individual apartments (LVT #31585). Prior to June 14, 2019, the Rent Stabilization Law had permitted MCI rent increases for such items. The DHCR denied landlord’s claim that the agency was, in effect, making an improper retroactive application of HSTPA changes to the Rent Stabilization Law in a case that was pending before the Rent Administrator when the law was changed.