A Tenant’s Guide to Housing Rights During COVID-19
Housing Court is Operating Differently During the Pandemic. Here is what you need to know.
The eviction moratorium has been extended to October 1, 2020. Even if you are served with a marshal’s notice of eviction, you cannot be evicted before October 1, 2020. If you owe rent due to COVID-19, you may also be protected by a new federal government order, which prevents some evictions through December 31, 2020. Consult an attorney to find out if you are protected under the new federal government order.
Many Housing Court cases have been temporarily postponed, but landlords have recently been allowed to start new cases. If you have a pending case in Housing Court, or if your landlord brings a new case against you, you should receive a postcard or letter mailed to your home with important information about your case.
If you receive a postcard or letter from the Court, a marshal’s notice of eviction, or if you are illegally locked out of your home please call 311 or The Bronx Defenders and see our FAQ below.
What if I Can’t Pay My Rent?
If you are unable to pay your rent due to hardships related to coronavirus, you may be able to avoid eviction. To speak to a housing attorney about your options, call 311 to be connected with a lawyer who may be able to represent you in housing court. If you need additional help, you may call The Bronx Defenders. Our remote housing clinic is open every Thursday from 10am to 2pm at (845) 288-2611.
Connect to a Legal Services Provider Monday through Friday from 9am – 5pm
CALL (845) 288-2611
The Bronx Defenders’ Remote Housing Clinic is open every Thursday 10am-2pm
What if I get a postcard or letter from housing court?
If you have an attorney, you should reach out to them as soon as you receive any postcard or letter from the court. If you do not have an attorney, you don’t have to go to housing court in person; there will be a telephone or virtual option available. The postcard should have a sticker with a number to call for your virtual court appearance. If you would like to get free legal advice before your virtual court appearance, call 311 to get in contact with a free legal services provider.
What if I already had a warrant of eviction against me prior to the closing of the courts?
After October 1, evictions may resume. If you already had a warrant of eviction, it’s possible you will be served with a new marshal’s notice of eviction. You can be evicted within 14 calendar days of the date on the marshal’s notice of eviction. If you receive a marshal’s notice of eviction, you should file an Order to Show Cause (OSC) as soon as possible to stop the eviction. For assistance filing an OSC, call Housing Court Answers at (212) 962-4795 or call 311 or The Bronx Defenders to speak to an attorney.
What if my landlord, roommate, or family member locks me out of my home?
In most situations, it is illegal for anyone to change your locks or remove your belongings without an order from the court. If you are locked out of your residence, you should call 911 and explain to the dispatcher that your landlord has illegally evicted you. The police will be sent to your residence to help you get back in. If you have an attorney or advocate, notify them right away. If you are unable to get back into your apartment, you can call the Housing Court at (718) 618-2500 or go in person to 851 Grand Concourse to file an emergency illegal lockout case.
What if I can’t pay my rent?
As of now, you are still responsible for rent that accrued during the COVID-19 pandemic. Your landlord can bring an eviction case against you for non-payment of rent. Also, if you entered an agreement to pay your rent in housing court and you have not been able to pay in full by the agreed upon date, your landlord can move forward with trying to evict you after October 1. If you believe you are at risk of eviction and want to speak to an attorney, please call 311 Monday-Friday from 9am-5pm or call The Bronx Defenders’ Remote Housing Clinic at (845) 228-2611 on Thursdays from 10am-2pm. Groups such as the Right to Counsel Coalition, Housing Justice For All, and many others are fighting hard to pass laws to cancel rent. To join the fight, visit https://www.righttocounselnyc.org/.
What if I need serious or emergency repairs?
You can call 311 to connect to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). If you live in rent regulated housing, you can also apply to the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) for a rent reduction. Some government agencies are working with limited or remote staff, so it may take longer for repairs and/or inspections. You can also sue your landlord in an HP action for emergency repairs. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, JustFix.nyc has launched a useful Emergency HP Action tool. This is a free app that allows you to sue your landlord from any device that connects to the internet if they are neglecting essential services or harassing you. This is a completely virtual solution—you will not be required to travel to Housing Court in person. More information on this can be found at https://www.justfix.nyc/en/.
Is it true that I can’t be evicted based on unpaid rent that came due during the pandemic?
Maybe. Under the Tenant Safe Harbor Act, tenants who are sued for unpaid rent that comes due between March 7 and a future date when all the governor’s executive orders restricting public life in NYC are lifted have a defense to eviction if they can prove that they suffered a financial hardship due to COVID-19. If the court accepts the defense, your landlord may still win a money judgment against you, but they will not be able to evict you on the basis of unpaid rent during that period. However, if you owe rent from before March 7, or after a future date (TBD) when all the governor’s executive orders restricting public life in NYC are lifted, you are not protected by the Tenant Safe Harbor Act. To find out if you have a defense to eviction under the Tenant Safe Harbor Act, please consult an attorney. For free legal advice call The Bronx Defenders’ Housing Clinic at (845) 288-2611, open every Thursday from 10am – 2pm.
If you have been illegally locked out or need emergency repairs, or have questions about filing a case, call:
Bronx Housing Court Emergency Line
NYC Homeless Shelters
Department of Homeless Services