ALBANY, NY (WCNY) – Tenants in New York will be granted another reprieve in the new year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday, with an extension of an executive order that prevents landlords from evicting tenants who’ve faced financial hardship both during and before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The extension, however, may be moot: Democrats in the state Legislature are considering a special session next week to codify and expand a moratorium on residential evictions.
Details on what the Legislature may pass haven’t been released, and legislation hadn’t been introduced as of Wednesday afternoon. But Democrats who control both the state Senate and Assembly have been hinting at an end-of-year return to Albany for weeks now.
Some of the state’s current protections for tenants expire on Jan. 1, but others will exist until Cuomo declares that the COVID-19 crisis is no longer an emergency in the state.
Under the Tenant Safe Harbor Act, tenants who’ve been unable to pay rent due to financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 crisis are safe from eviction. But they have to show proof, in court, that their hardship was a result of the pandemic.
Cuomo issued an executive order in September that expanded the law, allowing tenants who were facing eviction before the COVID-19 pandemic to also be protected.
Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aide, said Wednesday that the order will be extended and that no tenants facing financial hardship will be evicted at the start of next year. Neither Cuomo nor DeRosa said how far those protections would be extended.
“We’re not going to let anybody be evicted due to these circumstances,” DeRosa said.
A moratorium on evictions for commercial tenants had already been extended by Cuomo earlier this month.
Housing advocates and some Democrats in the state Legislature have called for an expansion of the eviction moratorium to include more, or all, tenants in New York state, saying the current regulations don’t go far enough.
Assembly member Demond Meeks, a Democrat from Rochester, was arrested over the weekend for protesting the eviction of a city resident. That resident, Clianda Florence-Yarde was not protected from eviction by Cuomo’s order or the state’s laws, according to activists.
Members of the state Legislature are now considering a return to Albany next week to approve legislation that would protect more tenants, though specifics weren’t clear Wednesday.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, said Monday that Democrats in both chambers of the state Legislature were close to a deal on the issue, and that it had come down to differences in language. At the time, he said a special session was still possible next week.
“Once the Senate and the Assembly, if we can get to some common ground — which I think we are,” Heastie said. “I think it’s really just language that’s being worked out between the staff.”
Heastie also indicated, at the time, that the legislation may remove the requirement for tenants to prove financial hardship, signaling that more individuals would be protected from eviction than under the state’s current rules.
Lawmakers had also considered approving tax hikes on the state’s wealthiest residents in a special session this month, but that’s looking less likely due to resistance from Cuomo, who wants to wait for action from the federal government.
It’s also possible that lawmakers could approve more relief for tenants during next year’s legislative session, which is scheduled to begin in early January.
Dan Clark is host/producer of New York Now.