The Never Ending Story is a book that was made into a 1984 film. It’s about a young boy who runs into a bookstore to avoid bullies and happens upon a fantasy book that, as it turns out, is real. He becomes the hero and saves us from the “Nothing,” a darkness that destroys everything it touches.
In 2021, we have our own “Never Ending Story.” You know it better as the eviction moratorium. Just when you think it’s over, or about to be, it roars back into the headlines. Maybe Hollywood can write us a happy ending…
This past week saw a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on New York State’s eviction moratorium and a national reinstatement of the CDC moratorium despite its obvious legal flaws.
The Supreme Court ruled 6 to 3 against part of New York’s eviction moratorium. Now renters can no longer evade evictions by simply submitting a hardship deceleration form to the state explaining that they lost income due to the pandemic or that moving would harm their health.
What this means, in theory, is that tenants cannot declare that they were harmed financially by the pandemic and avoid paying rent; they will have to go to court and prove they were harmed.
Attorney Randy Mastro of Gibson Dunn represented the plaintiffs in this case, Rent Stabilization Associated. He had this to say, “We sought emergency relief because New York’s continuing moratorium violated owners’ constitutional rights and left small landlords struggling to survive, with no opportunity even to be heard in court, a fundamental right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Now, all parties will have that right, thanks to today’s Supreme Court decision.”
Will this lead to an immediate flood of New York State evictions? Likely not, for several reasons. Federal and New York State eviction law remains a muddled mess. At this point, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen next.
The situation remains highly fluid. For example, New York Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, who will become Governor when Cuomo resigns on August 24th, has promised to “work with the legislature to quickly address the Supreme Court’s decision and strengthen the eviction moratorium legislation.”
More than 830,000 New Yorkers owe back rent. How many of them have endured actual financial hardship due to the pandemic? That’s unknown. What is becoming more prominent in the media are stories of landlord hardship.
You can find stories about non-corporate landlords’ struggles everywhere on social media. They’re heartbreaking.
I found this one on August 13th, posted by Waj Far, “I’m a small landlord with one 2 family house and my tenant has not paid since December 2019 and have multiple unknown people living in the apartment since Nov 2019. We gave everyone notice to vacate through a lawyer to leave the house by April 2020, but the unknown people are still here today. So far, I’ve lost 40k $. My holdover saw is waiting in court since Feb 2020. Where is justice for me?”
This short video details the plight of Suzanne Antolini, a Long Island landlord. She is now $50,000 in debt because her employed tenant refuses to pay rent. Perhaps the recent Supreme Court decision will help Suzanne, but only time will tell.
In Washington D.C., despite admitting that the Supreme Court will likely strike down the CDC eviction moratorium as soon a case reaches its docket, President Biden reinstated the moratorium once more. His apparent reasoning is that he is trying to give time to the states to distribute money to reimburse landlords for back rent and avoid large numbers of evictions.
As of August 14th, according to the New York Times, “Only about $100 million — or less than four percent of the (New York’s) state’s $2.7 billion total — had been spent, state officials testified this week. Even before the court’s ruling, the slow pace had prompted some lawmakers to warn that, without an extension, large numbers of people may face eviction. The ruling only intensified those fears.”
Do you remember how this all started? Then President Trump protected millions of people from eviction in August 2020 because the economy was shut down in March, April, and May to battle COVID. The economy has since recovered – if not completely, enough to where jobs are once again plentiful.
Now a well-intentioned Federal emergency economic relief measure is caught up in the center of a political firestorm. Who’s left holding the proverbial bag? Not Wall Street. So far, Main Street is paying this bill.
I’ll keep you well informed on New York State and Federal eviction moratorium developments. We cannot ignore this issue, especially since it appears to be getting worse before it gets better.
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