New York Eviction Moratorium Challenge Dismissed

A federal judge struck down constitutional challenges to Governor Cuomo’s eviction moratorium orders.

The moratorium allows tenants to apply security deposits to rent provided the tenant replenishes the funds on a defined schedule, and temporarily prohibits landlords from starting an eviction against tenants facing financial hardship related to the pandemic.

The Governor’s Orders did not address then pending eviction cases, but as the Court pointed out the New York state courts closed in March and all eviction cases were suspended.

The first moratorium temporarily paused all evictions regardless of grounds.  A later order clarified that evictions on grounds other than non-payment against tenants experiencing financial hardships could proceed.

A group of landlords sued Governor Cuomo in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the orders on various legal theories. The Court dismissed the case in a summary judgment ruling.

The Court noted as background that evicting a tenant in New York, especially a residential tenant, is slow, cumbersome and extremely tenant-favorable process, especially when compared to analogous procedures in other states.

The Court noted several times in its opinion the temporary nature of the New York eviction moratorium. “[T]here is nothing permanent about [the eviction moratorium order]; it expires on August 19.”

The Court reasoned that the moratorium does not forgive rent, and landlords will be able to attempt to collect and/or evict tenants once the moratorium expires. “As long as the order is in place, tenants will continue to accrue arrearages, which the landlord will be able to collect with interest once the Order has expired. Furthermore, landlords will regain their ability to evict tenants once the Order expires.”

The Court pointed out that landlords “can still initiate eviction proceedings against the tenants who are not facing financial hardship but who have chosen not to pay their rent” and “will be able to move against their other tenants after August 19.”

The Court reasoned that the moratorium is not a regulatory taking because landlords still retain many economic benefits of ownership such as collecting rent from tenants not facing financial hardship and collecting security deposit funds from tenants affected by the pandemic.

The Court stated that the law is clear that “state governments may, in times of emergency or otherwise, reallocate economic hardships between private parties, including landlords and their tenants, without violating” the US Constitution.

Download a copy of the Court’s opinion.

New York Landlord-Tenant Attorneys

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