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New York landlords win legal challenge against state eviction moratorium

By Mike Wheatley | August 16, 2021

Struggling landlords in New York were given a glimmer of hope Thursday as the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a part of the state’s eviction moratorium. The move means potentially thousands of renters face being evicted from their homes, CNBC reported.

The order related to the state’s policy that allows renters to self-attest that they’ve experience COVID-19 related hardship as opposed to backing up their claims with documentary evidence.

“This scheme violates the court’s longstanding teaching that ordinarily ‘no man can be made a judge in his own case’”, the judges decreed.

The legal challenge against New York’s ban on evictions was brought by five landlords and one landlord association. They praised the decision, arguing they have been forced to continue paying for loans and to upkeep their properties while not receiving any rent. But others criticized the ruling.

Rebecca Garrard, legislative director at Citizen Action of New York, said the decision could trigger a humanitarian crisis in the state. “Given the sudden notice of this decision, we could see eviction numbers like we’ve never seen before,” she said.

CNBC reported that more than 830,000 tenants in the state are currently behind on their rent, with an average debt of $4,000.

Olga Someras, general counsel at the Rent Stabilization Association of New York City, told CNBC the ban was too broad and led to an “enormous burden” place on landlords. “All you had to do was check a box; so in theory it applied to millionaires too,” she said. “There were stories where tenants were using the law meant to protect vulnerable New Yorkers as a sword rather than a shield, to take advantage of landlords.”

The Supreme Court decision means New Yorkers will now have to prove financial hardship caused by COVID-19 in order to remain in their homes. However, it’s unclear how many renters will remain protected from eviction by the new nationwide eviction moratorium that was announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month, which runs until Oct. 3 and applies to anyone living in an area where infection rates remain high.

That new moratorium was itself the subject of another legal challenge Friday. However, the bid by another group of landlords and landlord associations was blocked by Judge Dabney Friedrich of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The decision was seen as a big boost for President Joe Biden and his administration.

The challenge by Alabama landlords was apparently rejected on “technical grounds”, CNN reported. Judge Friedrich was quoted as saying “the Court’s hands are tied” by an earlier appellate ruling to keep the moratorium in effect, though she said the plaintiffs could challenge the policy with the D.C. Circuit. The landlords have said they plan to appeal the ruling.

“The Administration believes that CDC’s new moratorium is a proper use of its lawful authority to protect the public health,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki in a statement on Friday. “We are pleased that the district court left the moratorium in place, though we are aware that further proceedings in this case are likely.”

The CDC’s previous eviction ban ended in July, having faced numerous legal challenges itself. Housing advocates say that evictions must remain barred until states have distributed $45 billion worth of rental assistance that has already been allocated to them by Congress. So far, just $4.2 billion of that money has reached households, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Mike Wheatley is the senior editor at Realty Biz News. Got a real estate related news article you wish to share, contact Mike at [email protected].
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