After the Second Circuit Court of Appeals denied the Rent Stabilization Association’s (RSA’s) motion for a stay of the latest eviction moratorium law in October, RSA along with four small property owners, filed an amended petition in Federal District Court challenging the moratorium, along with a motion seeking a stay of the most recent moratorium extension.
On November 8th, the Federal District Court held a hearing on the motion, where Judge Gary Brown heard from both sides on the legality and impact of the eviction moratorium. The plaintiffs put on four witnesses, all small property owners who had eviction proceedings pending before the pandemic and who have been unable to proceed in Housing Court due to the moratorium.
Property Owners Testify
One of the owners, Pantelis Chrysafis, who owns a one-family home in Garden City where the tenants have failed to pay over $100,000 in rent, testified that as a result of the eviction moratorium, he has been living in his parents’ basement while his wife and child live elsewhere since they have nowhere to live until they are able to get possession of their house from the court.
Another owner, Mudan Shi, testified with the help of a Mandarin interpreter that her tenants have failed to pay rent and appear to be selling drugs out of the apartment. However, none of the neighbors are willing to testify, barring her from being able to proceed with her Housing Court case.
Another owner, Brandie LaCasse, a retired and disabled United States Air Force veteran, testified that as a result of the eviction moratorium she has been unable to move back into her property, where the tenants have failed to pay rent since the start of the pandemic and as a result, she and her daughter have been effectively homeless while the moratorium continues.
New Moratorium Law Damages Owners
Each one of these small property owners received a hardship declaration from their tenants, barring them from continuing with any case against their tenants and barring them from obtaining possession of their property. They all also testified that they were unable to swear under the penalty of perjury that their tenants were not suffering from financial or COVID-related hardship, because only their tenants would have information and knowledge as to their own circumstances. Therefore, the new moratorium law does not provide an effective means for owners to challenge tenant declarations.
Witnesses for the State
The State put forth two witnesses, both court employees who testified about case volume and specifically the volume of hardship declarations that have been challenged thus far since the new moratorium law went into effect on September 1st.
According to the State’s own data offered at the hearing, a total of 485 owners have submitted affidavits contesting tenant hardship declarations in the entire state as of October 20th, of which a total of 44 have been granted.
Our attorneys correctly pointed out the fact that the State’s own data indicated that of the 150,000+ cases that are currently pending in Housing Court, only 0.05% of those cases had an owner contest the tenant hardship – clear proof that most owners cannot swear to the nonexistence of their tenants’ hardship. This shifting of the burden of proof, from tenants proving the existence of a tenant’s hardship to owners providing the nonexistence of a tenant’s hardship, has continued to render the moratorium law unconstitutional.
RSA anticipates that the Federal District Court will issue a ruling on our motion for the injunction sooner rather than later, and we will provide an update on any such decision, as well as any subsequent appellate action we may know as it becomes available.
It is possible that this issue of [AOA] went to press ahead of that decision.
The RSA (Rent Stabilization Association of N.Y.C., Inc) is the largest trade association in New York City exclusively dedicated to protecting and serving the interests of the residential housing industry. The RSA represents 25,000 property owners and agents responsible for approximately one million units of housing. RSA’s members range from owners of one, small family building to large multi-family complexes, cooperative and condominiums. Their broad representation has allowed them to develop a powerful base for lobbying programs and the resources to provide a wide assortment of products and services to their members. For more information, visit www.rsanyc.net.