Landlord-Tenant Concerns During the COVID -19 Health Crisis

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**If you are experiencing any immediate threats to your housing or if you have specific questions about how this information applies to you, please contact us!**


All eviction proceedings and orders are paused until at least June 18, 2020. New York State has extended this pause in cases of non-payment of rent for tenants or licensees who are eligible for state or federal benefits or who otherwise can show they are not bringing in as much money due to COVID-19 until August 20, 2020. Courts are only accepting new cases for “essential matters,” which currently do not include evictions. If you live in federally funded housing, or your landlord received federal funding, your landlord cannot file an eviction action against you until at least July 27, 2020. 


These laws and orders can be found here:


Do I have to pay my rent during the pandemic?

Yes. The law prevents you from being evicted, but it does not stop your rental payments.  This means that you still have a legal obligation to pay rent. Under Executive Order 202.28 your landlord cannot charge late fees from March 20, 2020 through August 20, 2020.

What happens if I can’t pay my rent?

If you experience financial difficulties—from COVID-19 or for other reasons—there are many programs in place to help you. These include unemployment and temporary assistance.  Call our office or look at our website for more details.


If you need to spend your rent money on other necessities, you should track how you spent it.  If you can show that you had to spend it on necessities due to financial problems, this could help you get temporary assistance or defend against an eviction.

What happens if I withhold my rent?

You should not withhold your rent unless you have a good reason and have consulted with an attorney. Tenants should save their rent money as this could keep them from getting evicted.

Can my landlord evict me right now?

No.  In New York State, no evictions can be scheduled in court, and no new evictions can be filed, until at least June 18, 2020. No non-payment evictions can be heard until August 20, 2020 if the tenant is eligible for state or federal benefits or who otherwise can show their income has gone down due to COVID-19. For federally funded homes, an eviction cannot be filed until at least July 27, 2020. If your landlord tries to evict you by changing the locks, turning off the heat, harassing you, or something similar, you can still go to court to get help.  If you are having these problems, you should consult an attorney.

I had a court date for eviction scheduled for some time after March 15, 2020. What do I do now?

If you had an eviction proceeding pending your court date will be rescheduled. You may have already received something from the court. You may get several rescheduling notices from the court. If you have not yet received a new date, you should receive one in the future – you do not need to take any action at this time.

I am expecting to be served with a Warrant of Eviction or I was served a Warrant of Eviction before March 15, 2020. What happens now?

At this time, no law enforcement agency should be serving or enforcing any eviction orders. This means tenants may continue to live in their homes. At this time, it is unclear what will happen when the moratorium on evictions is lifted. We do not know if landlords will need to file new proceedings, if the courts will need to issue new warrants, or if law enforcement will re-serve warrants.

If you are served with an eviction order or if law enforcement or a landlord attempts to remove you or your belongings during this time, you should contact our office immediately.

Can my landlord call my place of employment to verify my income or lack thereof?

Neither the state nor federal protections put in place for COVID-19 addresses this issue. In New York, there are no specific guidelines about a landlord contacting an employer of a tenant. If you have subsidized housing, such as a housing authority, then the agency can likely contact your employer to verify your income and any changes in income. If you have a private landlord, it depends on the landlord’s intention. If a private landlord is calling simply to verify your employment, this will probably be okay. Your landlord should not be able to get any details about employment, such as the hours you work or your rate of pay, without a release. If the landlord calls your employer and tries to interfere with employment or insults you or your character, you might be able to take legal action against your landlord.

I’m interested in a rent strike and/or joining/creating a tenant’s organization. What are my rights?

In New York every tenant has the right to participate in tenant organizing activities including organizing or joining a tenant’s association or tenant’s advocacy group. If your landlord tries to keep you from doing this or punishes you for this, it is retaliation. You may use this as a defense in an eviction or another civil proceeding, or you may file a claim in civil court against your landlord. However, you might not be able to file a claim or use this as a defense if your landlord lives in the same building you do and there are fewer than four units in your building.

As noted above, tenants are still legally obligated to pay rent. If you decide you want to take part in a rent strike, you face the risk of eviction because you are ignoring this obligation. If you do withhold your rent, however, you should keep the rent and not spend it on anything else. This will be a defense if your landlord does try to evict you. You should know that if your landlord does file a court case, you might be charged late fees and legal fees.

Is my landlord still responsible for making repairs?

Yes. If something needs to be repaired, then you should let your landlord know, and you should also keep records. For example, you can call the landlord and then send a follow-up email or text which writes down what you both said. You can also write a letter to your landlord and send it by e-mail, fax, or regular mail. You should save copies of these letters (whether you send them electronically or by mail) so that you can show them in court if you need to. You can also contact your local Code Enforcement Officer. They have been deemed essential workers by NYS and should be able to at least offer information and guidance.

My landlord keeps harassing me. What can I do?

If your landlord’s behavior makes you afraid for your health and safety, you can contact local law enforcement for assistance and/or the department of social services for help finding someplace else to live.

If your landlord is trying to bully you into leaving the property, this is an “essential” matter which a court would likely hear now. That means that you could file, or threaten to file, a complaint with a court. You should speak with a lawyer about this.

What if I am a squatter, or I work in exchange for my housing, or my housing is arranged in some other way?

Your landlord still has to go to court to remove you from your home. You cannot be removed without a court order. The earliest this can happen is June 2020.

My lease is up during the pandemic. Can I stay? What are my rights?

If your lease is up, you should contact our office for review of your lease and options. Generally speaking, if the lease has an automatic lease renewal clause, it is automatically renewed. If not, your landlord is required to give you notice that they will not renew your lease. The amount of notice your landlord has to give you depends on how long you have lived in your home:
If you have lived in your home for less than one year, you are entitled to notice at least 30 days before the end of the lease.

If you have lived in your home between one and two years, you are entitled to notice at least 60 days before the end of the lease.

If you have lived in your home for more than two years, you are entitled to notice at least 90 days before the end of the lease.

If you did not receive this notice, both you and your landlord’s obligations continue as if the lease is still in place until you receive notice otherwise.

If you did receive a proper notice of non-renewal, you have a few options.

  1. You can voluntarily leave at the end of your lease; or
  2. You can attempt to pay rent after your lease has ended.
    • If the landlord accepts the rent, a new month-to-month tenancy has been created and the landlord would need to send you a new termination notice to end this tenancy.
    • If the landlord does not accept the rent, or if you choose not to offer the rent, then you would be considered a holdover.
  3. Even if you do not pay, or if the landlord doesn’t accept the rent, you cannot be removed without an eviction proceeding. The earliest an eviction proceeding can be held is June 18, 2020.
My landlord is demanding more than one month’s rent as a deposit. Do I have to pay it?

Since July 14, 2019 landlords are not allowed to charge more than one month’s rent as advance payment whether it is for a deposit, last month’s rent, or any other reason. This has not changed because of COVID-19. If your landlord is telling you that you must deposit more than one month’s rent for any reason, this is illegal and you do not have to pay the second deposit. If you have already made a deposit and the landlord is now demanding a second deposit, this is also illegal and you do not have to pay it. You should call our office for help.

What has changed is that your security deposit can be used to pay rent which is normally not allowed. Under NYS Executive Order 202.28, you can decide you want to use your security deposit to cover rent that you owe or the upcoming month’s rent if you cannot afford it. It is up to the tenant to decide if they want to do this; your landlord is not allowed to harass you or behave in any way to make you agree to this. If you agree to this, the agreement to use your security deposit has to be in writing (you can do this through email to avoid meeting in person). If you agree to use your security deposit this way, you have to pay the security deposit back little by little each month; specifically, in 1/12 installments for 12 months. This payment is considered rent. You must start making these payments within 90 days of your security deposit being used.

What happens if I have a Section 8 voucher and can’t afford to pay my portion of rent?

Ordinarily, if a tenant who has a Housing Choice Voucher does not pay his/her portion of rent, that non-payment could result in an eviction in court and termination of the voucher by the housing authority.

A tenant who has a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher is covered by the CARES Act. This means that a landlord cannot file a non-payment eviction against the tenant until July 27, 2020, and the earliest court date for this non-payment eviction is August 6, 2020. In N.Y., no non-payment evictions can be scheduled until after August 20, 2020.

H.U.D. has issued guidance instructing housing authorities not to terminate a tenant’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher during the 120-day moratorium that ends July 27, 2020. But this does not release the voucher holder from the obligation to pay that rent, and it appears that housing authorities may move forward after July 27 with voucher termination for non-payment of rent that accumulated during the moratorium.

I live in public housing and I’m behind on rent. Can the housing authority charge me late fees?

No. Public housing is covered by the CARES Act, which says that the housing authority cannot “charge fees, penalties, or other charges” related to nonpayment of rent from March 27, 2020 until July 25, 2020. This also applies to tenants in Section 8 housing. Further, in N.Y., an executive order states a landlord cannot collect a “payment, fee, or charge for the late payment of rent” between March 20, 2020 and August 20, 2020.

What should I do if I live in subsidized housing and have lost income?

If you live in subsidized housing – including public housing or Section 8 housing – and you have lost income, you should report this to the landlord as soon as possible. You should keep a record of when, how, and to whom you reported this change. If your subsidy is administered by a public housing authority, you may be able to report a change in income by phone. H.U.D. has authorized public housing authorities to take this information by telephone; however, it is up to each housing authority whether they will take the information by phone. You should check with the housing authority beforehand and not assume that they will take your information by phone.