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New York Landlords: How to Navigate the Tenant Safe Harbor Act

New York landlords and tenants need to know how to navigate the Tenant Safe Harbor Act that prohibits evictions for non-payment of rent and limits rent increases. Read on to learn more.

New York landlords need to know how to navigate the Tenant Safe Harbor Act. This new legislation protects New York tenants from eviction for non-payment of rent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, the prohibition against evictions would expire on June 19, 2020.

In late June, Governor Cuomo signed an extension of the protections. If a tenant qualifies for protection, the tenant cannot get evicted for non-payment of rent as long as any part of the county in which he lives still has COVID-19 shutdowns. Landlords can seek money judgments for the amount of money the tenants owe, but a landlord cannot evict a tenant who is eligible for Safe Harbor Act protection.

A Summary of the Safe Harbor Act

The Safe Harbor Act suspended all evictions in New York State beginning March 20, 2020, and ordered courts not to accept new filings for evictions or foreclosures. The New York Attorney General (AG) made it clear that even threats of eviction are illegal (Class A Misdemeanor) while the Safe Harbor Act is in effect. The AG’s office urges tenants to contact the AG if the tenant is the victim of illegal threats of eviction.

The AG offers this advice to help tenants and landlords understand their rights and duties under the Safe Harbor Act:

  • The Act prohibits City Constables, City Marshals, and County Sheriffs from performing evictions, even if a warrant already issued.

  • Tenants should report violations of the Safe Harbor Act if any of these law enforcement agencies try to evict them.

  • If a landlord tries to evict (self-help eviction) or locks a tenant out of the leased premises, the tenant should call 911. The tenant should carry an official document, like identification, the lease, or a property bill that contains the tenant’s name and address. An emergency court or Housing Court can help a tenant get back into the apartment.

  • Landlords are not allowed to increase rents excessively because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Safe Harbor Act places specific limits on rent increases while the Safe Harbor Act is in effect.

  • Landlords must continue to provide essential services, like electricity and hot water, even if a tenant is not current on the rent. Remedies include getting an emergency inspection, calling Code Enforcement, and filing a case in court against the landlord.

  • Landlords cannot engage in conduct designed to force tenants to leave because of miserable conditions. Such behavior can violate our state’s anti-harassment laws.

  • Any and all discrimination against a tenant on the basis of the tenant or someone with whom the tenant lives contracting COVID-19, immigration status, or having the appearance of being from a country with a severe outbreak of COVID-19, violates the law.

  • Landlords can only post notices that someone in the building is or was sick with COVID-19, but the landlord is not allowed to identify which person is sick. Any posted notice is discriminatory unless the posting was needed to protect the health of other people.

David S. Harris, New York Landlord-Tenant Attorney, can help guide you through these uncertain times and explain the Safe Harbor Act. You can call today at (718) 291-5544.


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