Tenants, landlords, lawyers, and others involved in the adjudication of New York State’s commercial and residential evictions have some temporary certainty (if that’s not an oxymoron) after New York State Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks issued new guidance for state eviction proceedings on June 18 that delays hearings in new cases as well as the service of eviction warrants until at least July 7.
The latest guidance, reported by Law360.com, follow’s Marks’s previous edict from mid-March stating that "All eviction proceedings and pending eviction orders shall be suspended statewide ... until further notice.” As of now, that “further notice” is the July 7 date … with one exception: eviction cases that commenced on or before March 16 can be scheduled for virtual settlements starting on Monday.
Although the June 18 memorandum does allow for new cases to be filed on Monday, June 22 -- corresponding with the expiration of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s blanket eviction moratorium -- the cases will not proceed in court until July 7 or later, to avoid a “sudden high-volume influx of eviction matters,” said Judge Marks.
Still unclear is how those new cases are to be filed, at least in the city. While it was previously understood that in-person filing would resume on Monday, June 22, Judge Marks’s new order states that new cases must be filed electronically or by mail, reports Law360. But (as stated in a recent article on the issue: https://cooperator.com/article/uncertainty-confusion-as-eviction-moratorium-ends) New York City housing courts are not set up for electronic filing and are not likely to have it in place until “later this summer,” per Judge Marks.
Office of Court Administration (OCA) spokesperson Lucian Chalfen told Law360, “In other words [a landlord] can’t issue a warrant to throw you out, but if you want to file a new case you can mail it in. It’s just that further action is stayed. And then after July 7th we’ll see where we’re at.” According to Judge Marks’ memorandum, landlords must also provide tenants with a form notice in English and Spanish stating that they “may be eligible for an extension of time to respond in light of legal directives related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
As courts start to reopen with other segments of the broader economy during the city’s Phase 2 plans starting June 22, this “hurry up and wait” approach likely will be seen across various sectors and industries, with the pent-up demand for services and activities reaching a breaking point over the last three-plus months of stay-at-home orders.
According to Law360, housing court attorneys said they were still digesting this latest directive from the OCA. “OCA is trying to please everybody by creating this pinhole opening into the courthouse,” said Sateesh Nori, attorney in charge of Legal Aid’s Queens Housing Office. “To me it just shows that they could have avoided all of this by just waiting to reopen, instead of setting up this labyrinth in front of the courthouse door for landlords and tenants to navigate. There are so many ambiguities that people are chewing over right now, on the Thursday before this happens.”
Darcey Gerstein is Associate Editor of The Cooperator.