COVID-19 Legal FAQs for Renters in
This page has local legal information on residential (not commercial) renters’ issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not legal advice, and you should check with your local legal aid and courts for current information. Your local city or county may have additional protections for renters.
This page was last updated on July 8, 2020. It was reviewed by our volunteer attorney experts.
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
- Are there any special protections for renters during the emergency? How long do they last?
Yes, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has issued an executive order which prohibits landlords from initiating or enforcing an eviction for nonpayment of rent if the tenant faced COVID-19 related financial hardship until August 20, 2020. Governor Cuomo has also issued an executive order which outlines that a landlord can't obtain a warrant of eviction for unpaid rent during the COVID-19 covered period if the tenant experienced financial hardship.
Governor Cuomo's Executive Order 202.28 outlines that landlords cannot initiatie or enforce an eviction for a residential or commercial tenant for nonpayment of rent or a foreclosure for nonpayment of mortgage if the tenant has faced financial hardship due to COVID-19 through August 20.
Governor Cuomo's Tenant Safe Harbor Act outlines that no court can issue a warrant of eviction or judgment of possession against a tenant who has suffered financial hardship during the COVID-19 covered period.
- What do the protections mean for renters?
The protections mean that through August 20, 2020 in New York state:
- Your landlord may still give you a notice to quit.
- Your landlord may file an eviction claim in court against you, once the New York courts reopen for non-essential matters.
- Hearings on eviction are suspended, and the court will not hear an existing eviction case that had been filed against you.
- Courts should not be enforcing evictions or issuing writs of eviction.
- Law enforcement should not enforce an existing eviction order against you, to remove you from your home.
If you can prove you have a COVID-19 hardship or that you qualify for unemployment, then you are protected against an eviction based on nonpayment of rent, through August 20, 2020.
- Do I still have to pay rent?
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, between March 20 - August 20, 2020. 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 being removed from your home through August 20th. But after the emergency ends, renters will have to pay back rent or face possible eviction.
Also check with your local city or county government to see if they give renters any additional protections if they are struggling to pay rent during the emergency.
If you cannot pay rent, take steps to protect yourself:
- Communicate with your landlord: Send a written letter or email 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 help here for drafting and mailing a letter to your landlord. Also check here.
- 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.
- Keep proof of COVID-19’s impact on you: Collect documents about your COVID-19-related employment problems, health care issues, or other issues that affect your ability to pay rent. This includes letters from your employer, doctor, insurance provider, child care provider, schools, etc.
- Check for help: If you need financial assistance for housing costs, you may be able to get help.
- Can my landlord evict me?
New York renters cannot be evicted from their homes during the emergency period.
Under Governor Andrew Cuomo's eviction moratorium order, no law enforcement officer is allowed to remove a renter from their home during the state’s emergency period.
Even if there is an existing court order for an eviction, law enforcement officers cannot use that order to remove a renter from their home.
If you are in New York City and a city marshal 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 official attempts to remove you from your home, then you should call the Attorney General's office at 1-800-771-7755.
You also may be eligible for additional U.S. national protections through July 25, check here below to see if you qualify.
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 U.S. national protections against eviction?
Renters in 3 categories have special national protections against being evicted during the Emergency Period of March 27, 2020 to July 24 or 25, 2020. These national protections add onto any state and local protections you have.
Do you fit in any of these 3 categories?Your home’s owner has a federally backed mortgage loan or other guarantee (like through Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae). Search if your home is covered.You pay rent through a federal assistance program like the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, Rural Development Voucher, or other 'covered housing' program.You live in Public Housing, where the government is your landlord.
If you are a renter in one of these 3 categories, the federal CARES Act section 4024 gives you these protections. (Remember, these protections add onto any state and local protections you have)
- Your landlord cannot file a new eviction lawsuit against you for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period. They can still evict you for other behavior, like drug abuse, other criminal activities, or other lease violations.
- Your landlord cannot charge you new fees or penalties for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period.
- After the Emergency Period ends, your landlord may not be able to evict you immediately.(Different states interpret the protections ending on July 24 or 25. Check with local lawyers to see about your state). If you have not paid your rent in full during the Emergency Period, your landlord must wait until the period ends before giving you a notice to vacate. For example, they may give you a notice on July 26, and you must be allowed until at least August 25 to leave the property.