The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down at least part of New York’s eviction moratorium, potentially leaving thousands of renters in the state at risk of being forced out of their homes.
The court’s order Thursday focused on the state’s policy of allowing tenants to self-attest that they’ve experienced a Covid-related hardship, rather than documenting the setback with evidence. “This scheme violates the court’s longstanding teaching that ordinarily ‘no man can be a judge in his own case,'” the majority wrote.
Five New York landlords and one landlords’ association brought the challenge against the ban.
The decision could trigger a humanitarian crisis in the state, said Rebecca Garrard, legislative director at Citizen Action of New York.
“Given the sudden notice of this decision, we could see eviction numbers like we’ve never seen before,” Gerrard said.
The statewide ban was supposed to be in effect through August, but now the entire protection is in jeopardy, she said, “If you’ve had a notice of eviction served within the last 30 days, you could be evicted today.”
More than 830,000 tenants in New York are behind on their rent, with an average debt of $4,000.
The ban was too broad and placed an “enormous burden” on landlords, said Olga Someras, general counsel at the Rent Stabilization Association of New York City.
“All you had to do was check a box; in theory, it applied to millionaires,” Someras 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.”
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The ruling on New York’s ban is separate from the new nationwide eviction moratorium, announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier in the month. That protection applies until Oct. 3 and to places where Covid rates remain high.
However, the ruling suggests that broader ban may, too, be at risk.
“This is a very bad sign for how the Supreme Court is going to land and rule on the CDC’s moratorium when it inevitably lands at their feet,” Garrard said.
Worried about eviction?
Renters in New York worried about how the decision will impact them have options.
Advocates recommend applying for federal rental assistance as soon as possible. Any renter who has done so can submit their application number to the court to stop their eviction, Garrard said.
New Yorkers should also monitor the Covid rates in their county to see if they’re shielded by the national moratorium. That order covers renters in areas experiencing “substantial” and “high” levels of coronavirus cases. On the CDC’s website, you can check the level where you live.
If your landlord has moved to evict you, try to get a lawyer. You can find low-cost or free legal help with an eviction proceeding at Lawhelp.org. In New York City, most renters at risk of eviction have a right to counsel.