A Tenant’s Guide to Housing Rights During COVID-19
New York State recently enacted an eviction moratorium that protects most tenants from eviction until May 1, 2021.
The Covid-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act pauses most eviction cases and bans most evictions until at least February 26, 2021. If you experienced a COVID-related hardship, the law extends the eviction ban until at least May 1, 2021. To benefit from this additional protection, you must sign a hardship declaration and deliver it to your landlord or to the housing court.
With a few narrow exceptions, households who have been financially impacted during the Covid-19 pandemic or have members who would be at risk of severe illness or death if they had to move due to underlying health conditions are eligible for the eviction protection until May 1, 2021. Tenants who are being evicted for nuisance, dangerous, or illegal conduct may not be protected by the eviction protection. To qualify for the current protections, you must sign a hardship declaration and deliver it to your landlord or the court. Right to Counsel will send mail your hardship Declaration to your landlord if you fill out using their online tool at evictionfreeny.org. You can also print the hardship declaration from the Housing Court website and deliver it to firstname.lastname@example.org or directly to your landlord.
If you receive court papers, a notice of eviction, or if your apartment needs repairs and you have questions, please call 311 or The Bronx Defenders.
What if I Can’t Pay My Rent?
If you are unable to pay your rent due to hardships related to the coronavirus pandemic, you may be able to avoid eviction temporarily. 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 still need help, you may call The Bronx Defenders. Our remote housing clinic is open every Thursday from 10 am to 2 pm at (845) 288-2611.
Connect to a Legal Services Provider Monday through Friday from 9 am – 5 pm
CALL (845) 288-2611
The Bronx Defenders’ Remote Housing Clinic is open every Thursday 10 am-2 pm
Am I eligible for the current eviction moratorium?
Households who have been financially impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic or have members who would be at risk of severe illness or death if they had to move due to underlying health conditions are eligible for the protections of the eviction moratorium automatically until February 26, 2021, and until May 1, 2021, if they sign a hardship declaration. However, tenants who are accused of dangerous or illegal conduct may not be protected by the eviction moratorium.
How do I qualify for the eviction moratorium?
To qualify for the current moratorium, you must sign a hardship declaration under penalty of perjury and deliver it to your landlord or the court. Your landlord or the court may send you the hardship declaration. You can also find the hardship declaration on the Housing Court website. Bronx residents can deliver the hardship declaration to the court via email at: BronxHardshipDeclaration@nycourts.gov.
What if I get a letter from housing court?
You do not have to go to housing court in person; there should be instructions on how to respond by telephone, virtually, or electronically. Additionally, the hardship declaration mentioned above should be enclosed. Even if you think you may not qualify for the extended eviction moratorium, you may still have defenses. 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 would like to get free legal advice before answering any court documents, call 311 to get in contact with a free legal services provider.
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. If the police are unable to help you 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?
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 February 26, 2021, unless you sign a hardship declaration. 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 to cancel rent. To learn more, visit https://www.righttocounselnyc.org/.
What if my apartment needs repairs?
Your landlord is required to make repairs to ensure your apartment is free from hazards and violations of city codes. If your landlord fails to meet that obligation, you can sue in housing court in a Housing Part (HP) Action, to enforce that right. To report potential violations, and put your landlord on notice that conditions exist, you can call 311 to connect to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). In response to the COVID-19 crisis, JustFix.nyc has launched a useful HP Action tool. This is a free app that allows you to sue your landlord from any device that connects to the internet if your landlord is neglecting essential services or harassing you. More information on this can be found at https://www.justfix.nyc/en/. If you live in rent regulated housing, you can also apply to the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) for a rent reduction.
Is it true that I cannot 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 came due since March 7 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. 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