U.S. Supreme Court Partially Lifts New York State Eviction Ban

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In a win for one of New York city’s largest landlord groups, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday partially lifted a ban on evictions for renters in New York State who say they are experiencing financial hardship. 

The Rent Stabilization Association, a group of property owners, brought the suit forward, arguing that the state was denying them their right to due process by not allowing landlords enough say in the eviction process. The association claimed renters didn’t need to actually prove they were in financial distress, and that landlords were not allowed to show that certain tenants could actually afford to pay their dues, NPR reported.

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And the justices agreed. The order, with three dissenting justices, pauses parts of the eviction ban while another challenge works its way through the lower courts. The moratorium was scheduled to expire at the end of the month, but a group of politicians are pushing to extend it until Oct. 31

“[Part of the eviction law] generally precludes a landlord from contesting that certification [of financial hardship] and denies the landlord a hearing,” the unsigned order reads. “This scheme violates the court’s longstanding teaching that ordinarily ‘no man can be a judge in his own case’ consistent with the due process clause.” 

The order leaves the rest of the law intact, including a provision instructing judges not to evict tenants who have been found to have suffered financial hardship. The court’s decision concerned Democrats including State Sen. Brian Kavanagh, who called it a setback in the state’s ability to protect tenants during the pandemic, The New York Times reported.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who is set to take over from Andrew Cuomo after Cuomo resigned following a sexual harassment report that found he had harassed 11 women, said she would work to strengthen the moratorium.

“No New Yorker who has been financially hit or displaced by the pandemic should be forced out of their home,” said Hochul on Twitter. “As NY’s next governor, I look forward to working with the Legislature to quickly address the Supreme Court’s decision & strengthen the eviction moratorium legislation.” 

The Rent Stabilization Association is calling on the soon-to-be governor to fast track the distribution of the $2.7 billion federally funded emergency rent assistance program allocated to cover nearly all of struggling residents’ housing debt. New York has been slow to distribute the money while more than 800,000 New Yorkers are behind on their rent, amounting to over $3 billion of debt, NPR reported.

“We agree with the incoming governor that the focus of state government should be getting the billions of dollars in federally funded rent relief to financially desperate tenants and landlords,” said Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, in a statement. “Tenants … took advantage of this ongoing blanket moratorium by declaring COVID hardship without having to provide proof.”

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention two-month eviction moratorium still covers most of New York, because the ban is in effect for areas of the United States experiencing “high” or “substantial” transmission of the coronavirus, NPR reported.

Celia Young can be reached at cyoung@commercialobserver.com.