Legal FAQs for Renters in
Table of Contents
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Do I have housing protections because of COVID-19?
My landlord gave me an eviction notice
What can I do?
I've been sued in court for eviction
What can I do?
How can I get rent help?
Learn about Rent Assistance programs to help with housing costs
Do I have housing protections because of COVID-19?
- Are there any special protections for New York state renters during the emergency?
The national CDC eviction moratorium ended on August 26, 2021. Please reach out to legal services if you are worried about eviction.
Yes, New York state law protects renters from evictions for COVID-19 financial hardships until January 15, 2022.
This protection is not automatic. Renters must fill in a Hardship Declaration form and give it to their landlords or the courts to be protected.
The Hardship Declaration can stop an eviction case from moving forward. Your landlord may choose to challenge your Hardship Declaration.
If you get a notice of eviction, then complete a Hardship Declaration. Send it to the Marshal, to the court, and to the landlord. Reach out to legal aid for more help with this protection.
- What do the protections mean for New York renters?
The protections mean that through January 15, 2022 in New York state, for renters who give their landlords a Financial Hardship declaration:
- Your landlord may still give you a notice to quit.
- Your landlord should not file an eviction claim in court against you, though they may try to.
- Courts may be holding eviction cases. Renters can bring proof of their Financial Hardship Declaration to show the court, as a defense against the eviction.
- Courts should not be enforcing evictions or issuing writs of eviction for you
- Law enforcement should not enforce an existing eviction order against you, to remove you from your home.
- Do I still have to pay rent in New York?
Yes, New York renters still need to pay rent during the emergency.
Your landlord cannot charge you late payments or penalties for missed rent during the emergency period. If you are facing COVID-19 hardships, you can use your security deposit to pay your rent and repay this deposit over time.
If you are unable to pay your rent, you may be protected from eviction from your home through January 15, 2022. But after the emergency ends, renters will have to pay back rent or face possible eviction.
If you cannot pay rent, take steps to protect yourself:
- Apply for Rental Assistance: If you need money to pay for housing costs like rent or utilities, you may be able to get help.
- Communicate with your landlord: Send a written Hardship Declaration to your landlord as soon as possible. Explain why you cannot pay the rent because of COVID-19 impact. You can also try to negotiate with your landlord to make a payment plan or get a temporary rent reduction.
- Get written records of all communication: Keep copies of any letter or email you send, and any responses from the landlord. Keep receipts for any payments you make, that are signed and dated. If you make a payment plan or rent agreement, make sure to get it in writing.
- Can my landlord evict me in New York during the COVID-19 emergency?
New York renters cannot be evicted from their homes for not paying their rent because of COVID-19 hardships, through January 15, 2022-- as long as they have given a Hardship Declaration to their landlord. Other renters may be evicted, for reasons other than non-payment of rent.
If you are in New York City and a city marshal incorrectly attempts to remove you from your home during the emergency period, you can report this activity to the NYC Department of Investigation, Bureau of City Marshals at (212) 825-5953.
If you are outside New York City and a law enforcement officer incorrectly attempts to remove you from your home, then you should call the Attorney General's office at 1-800-771-7755.
If you are facing an eviction, reach out for legal help to protect yourself.
- Can my utilities be shut off?
During the emergency, New York renters are protected from utility shutoffs and late fee charges if they cannot pay their utility bill.
Governor Andrew Cuomo and the power companies announced that no customer will have home utilities shut off during the emergency, based on an inability to pay.
Renters must still pay their utility bills. If you need financial assistance for utility costs, you may be able to get help.
Landlords are never allowed to shut off a renter's utilities in an attempt to force the renter out. That is an illegal eviction. Reach out to a lawyer for help if this happens to you.
- Are you eligible for eviction protections under the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
What is the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
The CDC Eviction Moratorium orders that renters should be protected from eviction if they are unable to pay their rent due to hardships like job loss, income loss, or medical expenses. This protection lasts from September 4, 2020 through August 26, 2021.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium is not automatic protection against eviction. Renters need to fill in a Declaration document and give it to their landlord to get the protection.
Landlords may still try to file an eviction lawsuit against renters, but renters can use the moratorium to defend themselves in court.
Do you qualify for protection under the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
The CDC Eviction Moratorium applies to people who:
- Live in a county with High or Substantial COVID rates. Find your county at the CDC tracker map (https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view). If your county has been in the Moderate or Low category for 14 consecutive days, then the Moratorium does not apply to you.
- Rent a home in the United States; AND
- Make less than $99,000 (or $198,000 if you file a joint tax return); AND
- Are facing eviction based on nonpayment of rent (not for other problems, like lease violations or criminal activity); AND
- Can show they’re unable to pay rent because they’ve had a financial hardship, like losing a job, decrease in income, or medical bills; AND
- Can show that they’ve been trying their hardest to pay their rent and find any rental assistance; AND
- Can show that they’re at risk of homelessness if they were to be evicted.
If you live in a state, county, or city that has an eviction moratorium, the CDC Eviction Moratorium doesn’t replace this local one. It adds on top of your local protections.
What does the CDC Eviction Moratorium get you?
The CDC Eviction moratorium can stop an eviction proceeding against you. It could stop your landlord from removing you from your home, or from a court giving your landlord an eviction order through August 26, 2021.
- If your landlord has already started an eviction lawsuit against you, you can use the CDC Eviction Moratorium as a defense in court.
- You can use the Declaration form to tell your landlord that you are protected from eviction, and to ask the court to stop the eviction.
- You must follow the process below to be protected by the CDC Eviction Moratorium.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium does NOT get you rent relief:
- Even if you fill in the Declaration, this does not cancel rent that you owe, or stop rent or late fees from building up.
- After the CDC Moratorium expires on August 26, 2021, you may be evicted for the rent that you owe.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium may NOT stop a landlord from suing you:
- Even after you fill in the Declaration and send it to your landlord, they might still file an eviction lawsuit against you.
- You can bring the Declaration to the court eviction hearing, to ask the court to stop the eviction.
- Call a local lawyer for help if your landlord sues you for eviction.
How do you use the CDC Eviction Moratorium to protect yourself?
To secure CDC Eviction Moratorium protection, follow these steps:
- Apply for rental assistance. Look for any rental and utility assistance in your area, and submit applications to these programs. Find local assistance programs here.
- Fill out Declarations. You and every adult in the household need to fill out a Declaration about your financial hardships and your attempts to get assistance. In the Declaration, you must say that you are telling the truth and that you may face legal consequences if you are lying. You can use this guide for help with the Declaration.
- Send the Declarations to your landlord, and also tell the landlord that you will do your best to pay when you can. Keep a copy of the Declarations, as well as any receipt or documentation that you have sent it to your landlord (like email receipt or screenshots of the message). These can be useful evidence that you followed the process correctly.
- Protections through August 26th. After you send this, your landlord cannot remove you from your home for nonpayment of rent through August 26, 2021. They are also never allowed to harass or intimidate you, or force you to leave the home without a court order.
- If your landlord has filed an eviction lawsuit against you, you can bring your Declarations to the court to ask them to stop the lawsuit. Contact a legal aid lawyer to help you with the lawsuit. Please note: Your landlord can still evict you for reasons other than nonpayment of rent, like for engaging in criminal activity in the home, violating building codes or health ordinances, or threatening the health and safety of other residents.
- You will continue to owe your rent. Try to make a plan about how you will take care of all the rent you owe. At the end of the Eviction Moratorium protections on August 26, 2021, you will no longer be protected from being evicted.
- Make sure you know your lease and its terms. Some landlords may try to evict you based on violations of the terms in your lease. If you know your lease, you can protect yourself by making sure you do not break any of its terms.
If your landlord is trying to evict you, you should contact a legal aid attorney who helps with evictions. The CDC Eviction Moratorium might give you protections that lawyers can help you with.
What if I need repairs in New York during the COVID-19 emergency?
Can I break my lease?
What do I do if my landlord tries to evict me?
Are eviction cases still moving through New York state courts?
My landlord gave me an eviction notice
- My landlord gave me a notice to "pay or quit" my rental home in New York state. What should I do?
You do not have to leave your home yet.
In New York, your landlord must give you an official notice that they may bring you to court to evict you for not paying your rent. The notice should give you time to either pay your rent or prepare defenses against eviction.
This official notice must follow some rules to be valid. If it doesn't follow these rules, then you can challenge it and stop an eviction.
These are New York’s requirements for an eviction notice:
- The notice must be written down.
- The notice must state that the tenant has 14 days to pay rent or move out of the rental unit.
- It has to have your full name (and names of other tenants) and address of the leased property.
- The notice must have the dates the overdue rent is for.
- It must define the property and use of leased property.
- It has to say approximately how much rent you owe (including past due amounts and total amount owed)
Reach out for legal help if you think the notice isn't correct, or if you need assistance in defending yourself against the eviction. Find local legal help here.
- What if the landlord has just told me, face-to-face or over the phone, that I need to leave my home in New York state?
A verbal conversation doesn't count as an "eviction notice". To be legal, the notice must be written down and given to you in the correct way.
Reach out for legal help if your landlord is trying to make you leave without going through the court process. This is illegal and a lawyer may be able to help you protect yourself. Find local legal help here.
- Do I have to leave my home in New York state by the time of the eviction notice's expiration date?
No, you do not have to leave (or 'quit') your home by the date listed on the eviction warning notice.
After the date on the eviction notice passes, then your landlord may file an eviction lawsuit in court against you. You will be able to go to court and present defenses to protect yourself.
You do not have to leave your home until you have been brought to court, and a judge has ordered that your landlord can make you leave. Even after a judge orders an eviction, you will have 14 days before a marshal or police officer will enforce that eviction by locking you out.
My eviction notice says that I will be evicted unless I pay back-rent I owe in New York state. What if I can't afford to pay it?
How long do I have after I receive an eviction notice to pay back the rent to stop the eviction?
I've been sued in court for eviction
- My landlord has filed an eviction lawsuit against me in court in New York state. What should I do?
You should make sure that the landlord properly 'served' you with the lawsuit. If they didn't give it to you in the correct way, you can challenge the eviction lawsuit before it even gets to the issue of rent. In New York, a landlord must follow certain rules to let you know about the lawsuit:
1. Only certain people can give you a Notice of Petition and a Petition. The landlord can not give you these papers. They must be served by a professional process server or another adult who has not already served on behalf of the landlord 5 times in one 1 year.
2. They must be served between 10 and 17 days before the hearing date.
3. They must be served upon you either by:
- Serving (giving them to) you personally;
- Serving someone who lives or works in your home; or
- Leaving a copy at your home.
- If your landlord chooses the 2nd or 3rd method, they must also try to serve you personally before mailing you a copy of the petition by both First Class and Certified Mail.
4. You must be served with both of these papers at least 10 days before the court date. The court date can’t be more than 17 days after you are served.
Even if the landlord did not serve you properly, you must still go to court to make those arguments.
You should also reach out to local lawyers who can help you prepare for your court hearing so you can protect yourself against the eviction. Find legal help here.
- Do I have to do anything after I get an eviction Petition or Notice of Petition in New York state?
In New York, you are required to respond to the eviction lawsuit, if you want to avoid the eviction. If the tenant fails to appear, the judge will declare a default judgment and give the tenant 5 days to vacate the premises.
The tenant’s Answer can be given verbally in court, or it can be written and sent to the court at least 3 days before the scheduled hearing date.
Reach out to legal help to learn what your rights and defenses are in your eviction case. Find legal help here.
- Can I settle my eviction case without going to court in New York state?
You can come to an agreement with your landlord outside of court, but you should still go to court to make sure your case is closed.
You can work with your landlord to make an agreement before the date of the court hearing. This might be a payment plan or other agreement on what needs to happen for you to stay in your home.
Be sure to get this agreement in writing, so that you can prove it exists and that your landlord follows through on it.
Also, you should still go to court for your hearing date, to make sure the court knows about the agreement and closes the lawsuit. If you do not go to court, the lawsuit might still continue and the judge might rule that the landlord can remove you. Go to court yourself to make sure this doesn't happen.
You can reach out for legal help to get assistance in negotiating an agreement with your landlord, and making sure this agreement is being followed. Find legal help here.
What if there are unsafe conditions in my home, when my landlord is suing me for eviction for not paying rent?
How can I get rent help?
- Who can help me with rent that I owe?
If you are behind on rent, you can get help from your local Rental Assistance program. This is a government service to help people who owe rent or utility bills.
Especially if you are behind on rent because of COVID-19 hardships, your local Rental Assistance (or Rent Relief) program can help you.
Find your local Rental Assistance program at your Get Help page here.
- Am I eligible for rent relief?
Local governments set the rules about who is eligible for rent relief. Most programs focus on people who have suffered COVID-19 hardships.
You can talk to your local Rental Assistance program to learn their eligibility rules.
You may have to show your household income, or if you are on other benefits programs like SNAP.
You may also have to show that you are at risk of homelessness or eviction if you don't get rental assistance.
- Does immigration status matter for rent relief?
Many local Rental Assistance programs are open to everyone, regardless of immigration status. Many programs do not even ask about immigration status.
Check with your local Rental Assistance program to make sure about eligibility rules and immigration.
Did I have eviction protections under the CARES Act?
Can a landlord apply for their renter, to get rental assistance?
Its information is taken from these sources:Housing Justice For AllNY Governor's extensionNY Courts memoPrinceton Eviction Lab's COVID Policy ScorecardsColumbia Law School COVID-19 Eviction Moratoria analysisEnergy and Policy Institute Utility Disconnect Tracker