Cuomo extends eviction ban through August, helping cash-strapped New York renters

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo provides a coronavirus update during a press conference in the Red Room at the State Capitol. (Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

Governor Andrew Cuomo may not be canceling rent as activists across the state have sought, but he is putting further restrictions on the penalties for not paying the landlord.

During Thursday’s COVID-19 briefing, Cuomo said not only can a tenant not be evicted during his earlier announced moratorium, but late fees cannot be incurred from non-payment of rent until Aug. 20. The moratorium was originally scheduled to expire in June.

“We’re going to take additional steps to ban any late payment fees because a person could not pay rent during this time, also allowing people to use their security deposit as a payment and they can repay it over a period of time,” Cuomo said. “I hope it gives families a deep breath.”

While Cuomo stressed the importance of protecting tenants as “most vulnerable,” property owners were also in mind, he said.

“I get it, there’s a tradeoff,” Cuomo added. “We’re working on relief from the banks for the landlords also and there are programs that the federal government and the state is doing to make sure those banks get relief so they don’t have to do any foreclosures.”

As part of the larger awareness around the need for rent forgiveness, two New York lawmakers are attempting to have a bailout for landlords as a result of potential cancelations to rent.

Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Grace Meng have called for the creation of a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) fund that would reimburse landlords for the cost of cancelling rent in the next stimulus package as the pandemic progresses and prevents many from going to work.

“For families with little to no savings to fall back on, this has been, and will continue be, catastrophic as they try to keep food on the table, cover the cost of prescription drugs, or meet other expenses. Further, as state unemployment systems face an unprecedented and overwhelming demand, millions more are expected to lose their sources of income,” according to their letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The proposal in the letter would also stop foreclosures for landlords by establishing mortgage forgiveness during the COVID-19 crisis.

On April 16, state Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris aimed to cover both tenant and landlord hardships as well by asking the governor to act before the issue took it’s natural course: defaulted payments.

“It has been clear for weeks now that rents cannot be paid with money that doesn’t exist and therefore, rent will be cancelled whether or not we authorize it by law,” Gianaris said in a statement. “I urge Governor Cuomo to implement an executive order to cancel rent obligations and bring stability to the housing market before it devolves into a full blown crisis.”

Cuomo acknowledged that the administration did not know what to expect as the extended moratorium was to expire on August 20, but that they would cross that bridge when they get there.