Legal professional Basic James supplies steerage to legislation enforcement about evictions throughout COVID-19

NEW YORK STATE (NEWS10) – New York Attorney General Letitia James issued guidance to the New York State Sheriffs’ Association providing important guidance on the role of law enforcement in the eviction process during the COVID-19 public health crisis.

On December 28, 2020, the 2020 COVID-19 Emergency Clearance and Prevention of Foreclosures Act was signed, providing protection for tenants at risk of eviction, including clarification for law enforcement officers conducting evictions. The law allows tenants to get an automatic evacuation stay until May 1, 2021 in all cases by filling out a hardship notice and sending it to their landlord, the court, a sheriff, marshal or city police officer.

The law also makes all eviction orders – those currently issued and those issued – flawed unless they contain a specific language referencing the hardship statement.

“Given the ongoing financial instability of the coronavirus, it is imperative for the state to enforce laws that will protect New Yorkers from the unlawful loss of their homes,” said Attorney General James. “My office remains ready and able to assist local sheriffs and law enforcement as they become familiar with the new law they are supposed to enforce.”

About 20% of tenants in New York could face evictions in 2021

James highlights the following reminders regarding hardship statements:

  • A tenant can provide their landlord with a statement in English (or in their main language) at any point during the eviction process.
  • The tenant can also present the declaration to the court and / or the person evicting it (i.e. sheriff, marshal, city policeman).
  • After receiving a declaration, the landlord is prohibited from initiating a new eviction case or continuing an existing eviction case until at least May 1, 2021.
  • The declaration should state that the tenant either had a loss of income; increased cost of living associated with a material impact on work or health (including the inability to secure relocation expenses); the inability to find employment or earn income due to responsibility for caring for children or elderly, disabled or sick family members; or financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Additionally, the hardship may include the tenant or someone in their household at a significant health risk of developing COVID-19 due to an underlying illness if they are forced to move away from home.
    • A “significant health risk” associated with contracting COVID-19 for a tenant or occupant is defined by law as over 65 years of age, with a disability or an underlying illness that may include, among other things, immunocompromised.

After receiving a statement, law enforcement officers are prohibited from evicting the tenant and inmates. Instead, they have to inform the court that they have received a declaration.

Housing Advocate: The proposed eviction moratorium is an improvement on the Tenant Safe Harbor Act

The Attorney General’s Office (OAG) encourages sheriffs and other law enforcement officers who execute eviction orders to issue statements to all inmates if they are involved in an eviction. The OAG continues to actively monitor housing practices across the state to ensure that no unlawful evictions occur.

The OAG has already sent cease and desist letters to landlords across the state illegally threatening tenants with eviction during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Attorney General James issued illegal evacuation guidelines to law enforcement and New Yorkers outlining how to resolve tenant problems related to COVID-19. Eviction threats are not only illegal, they also harm the well-being of New Yorkers.

All of the COVID-19 tenant protection guidelines and other important updates for the public and businesses can be found on the OAG website.

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