Client Alert: Landlord-Tenant Issues – New York Tenant Safe Harbor Act
On April 7, 2020, new tenant friendly legislation was introduced in the New York State Senate and Assembly. Titled the “New York Tenant Safe Harbor Act,” it would prohibit a landlord from evicting a tenant due to that tenant’s failure to pay rent for a period (i) commencing with the Governor’s declaration of a State of Emergency on March 7, 2020 and (ii) ending on a date six (6) months after the Governor lifts the State of Emergency.
The Safe Harbor Act (“SFA”) is an attempt to complement the Governor’s and Chief Administrative Judge’s prohibition on evictions, which expires in June 2020, to avoid a potential “tidal wave of evictions” at that time.
Landlords, however, will still have a remedy. The SFA would allow a landlord to sue for and obtain a money judgment for any unpaid rent which accrues between March 7, 2020 and six (6) months after the State of Emergency ends. Presumably, the landlord knows the tenant’s banking information and can ultimately recover all or a portion of the unpaid rent from any assets the tenant may have.
The SFA is not the only pending legislation to assist tenants who may have suffered economic losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast, NY Senate Bill S8125A and Assembly Bill A10224A would waive rent payments for residential or commercial tenants for a period of 90 days from the effective date of the law.
Whether either bill will pass, or when, cannot be determined as of this writing. Both bills will surely face opposition from landlord groups, commercial property owners, cooperatives, and owners of rented homes and condominium units. But because the SFA has considerably less negative economic impact on landlords and property owners, and the SFA is sponsored by the Chair of the Judiciary Committees in both the Assembly and Senate, the SFA may be more likely to become a law.
Please understand that the COVID-19 pandemic is an evolving situation. Our best advice is to continue to monitor our website and government websites for new information. We will continue to update our website as further information becomes available.