Federal Moratorium On Evictions Expires

A federal eviction moratorium instated at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis in the U.S. has expired, putting tens of millions at risk of losing their homes in many parts of the country. Where do renters’ rights stand in New York State? Attorney Paul Harding of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, LLP is on PYX106 discussing the issue.

Please give it a listen or read the transcript below.

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Interviewer: It’s 1800LAW1010, 1800law1010.com. Boy, I just saw the commercial of the guy, he’s everywhere. Paul Harding from Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. Welcome back, bro.

Greg: How are you doing, Paul.

Paul: Good morning, Greg. Good morning. Good morning.

Greg: So, we’re talking about unemployment insurance running out and people running out of money and these rent reprieves kind of the time is up. So, we wanted you to talk about where it stands here in New York and what our renters rights are.

Paul: Yeah. So, the big news here, July 25th, the federal eviction moratorium is lifted. So, landlords all over the country can now go back to court and say, “Hey, you are going to be evicted. You’re not paying your rent or for other reasons, we’re going to get you out.” New York, a little different, we’ve got until August 5th before landlords can go in and attempt an eviction. But New York has a thing called a Tenant Safe Harbor Act, which says, hey, you can’t evict someone for not paying rent from March 7th until their county was fully opened through phase four.

Interviewer: All right. So, what do you foresee happening here?

Paul: Well, you know, you can still go after the tenant for not paying rent during that period, you just can’t evict them for not paying the rent during what we’ll call the COVID period. You know, you’ve got tenants that you want out probably for lots of reasons, right? Those that have not been good tenants, you know, for multiple reasons. So, the eviction is going to start, but also the flip side is, the courts are open, but the courts are not open in the traditional sense, right? There’s no jury trials here in New York yet. So, you know, this is a judge decision historically as pertains to eviction, but at this stage, the things are clogged up. Landlords are going to go and there’s just going to be a lot of, you know, needed, you know, empathy towards tenants who have been knocked off their game because of COVID. And so, the eviction process is not going to be an easy one for the landlord.

Interviewer: I remember when there was, you know, people were going to the food banks and they were saying, you know, one out of every two people has never been to a food bank. I imagine one out of every two people, you know, haven’t had their house taken from them or kicked out because they couldn’t pay the rent. So that’s a lot of people with a lot of possible repercussions. I just hope that we have compassion in this country.

Greg: I think we’ve had compassion up to this point. Do you think compassion’s running thin, Paul?

Paul: Well, I think what’s happening is the landlords had probably up to a three-month reprieve not paying their mortgages, right? So, now their mortgages are due. So, it’s not as if landlord just own buildings, most buildings that you see are kind of mortgaged to the Hilton. They rely on rents just to kind of…

Interviewer: It’s got to go to the top though, it’s got to go to the top. They gotta be able to call their mortgage company and Wells effing Fargo or whoever the hell else it is that’s taking money and bought back their stock. And are getting thicker and fatter every single day needs to cut the break to the landlord who has to cut the break to the person who hasn’t worked in three months.

Greg: So, clearly you’ve touched a nerve.

Interviewer: Well, I should say, it’s a really scary situation I think, you know.

Greg: So, who needs a lawyer, Paul? The landlord or the renter?

Paul: Yeah. So, probably both. You don’t need a lawyer, either do not technically need a lawyer, but again, you know, you’re going to be in court, but, don’t have money to pay rent, probably don’t have money to pay a lawyer, right? So, it’s a situation where most of these tenants will appear in court unrepresented. The judges recognize a pro se litigant and really give them all the benefits of someone who would be confused in a court of law. So, I think ultimately we’re not going to see a ton of lawyers representing tenants. And I do think that the larger the complex, the more likely that there will be a lawyer representing.

Interviewer: Say that again though. Sorry. I know you have to say, but say that again so people understand that, a pro se…When you go to court pro se, you’re representing yourself. So, and like Paul said, I’ve been in the situation. I’ve been sued by a guy pro se, and the judge looks at them with great compassion and gives them pretty much whatever they want. So, if you are, you know, handling your own legal, you can get up in front of a judge, tell your story. I bet… right, Paul? I bet…

Paul: Yeah. It feels intimidating no doubt because it’s an unfamiliar water for you, it’s unchartered. But what happens is, the judge is under an obligation, you know, to be super compassionate, to slow things down, give them the benefit of doubt. The papers don’t have to go in a certain way. You know, they can help them, you know, recreate the paperwork they’re putting in front. So, ultimately, it’s difficult for a judge when he has a pro se litigant. And it’s also difficult for a lawyer when there’s a pro se litigant on the other side. So, going in by yourself in that situation feels intimidating, but really you’re given a tremendous amount of latitude.

Greg: It’s Paul Harding from Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, 1800LAW1010 and 1800law1010.com. All I was going to add to it is, you never realize the rights renters have until you’re an actual landlord. As a renter I didn’t know I had all these rights. As a landlord you’re like, at some point, it’s like a real pain in the ass to get rid of people.

Interviewer: Yeah. Like if you leave as a renter, isn’t there something like that like lets the landlord, but if you don’t leave, then it’s just like holy hell.

Greg: It’s just until you’re on the other side, you really don’t know. Well, that was really interesting, Paul. We appreciate the time this morning.

Paul: Absolutely. Talk soon, guys.

Greg: All right, thanks.

Interviewer: It’s good talking to you. That’s Paul Harding from Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, 1800LAW1010, 1800law1010.com.