Cea Weaver says the stakes are very real for people who have been unable to pay their rent through the Coronavirus Pandemic. And one of the biggest protections that Governor Andrew Cuomo has touted throughout it — might not have the teeth he claimed.
“Millions of people have lost their jobs and are unable to pay their rent because of COVID-19 and the economic crisis that is associated with it,” Weaver explained, speaking to the housing crisis that exists in the moment. “Housing courts are reopening for the first time since March — that’s happening right now — and millions of people could face eviction.”
Weaver, who serves as campaign coordinator for Housing Justice For All — an advocacy coalition consisting of Upstate and Downstate housing interests — says what Governor Cuomo has said throughout the pandemic isn’t accurate.
“Unfortunately there’s been a lot of confusion coming out of our Governor,” she explained. “There’s no active moratorium. What we do have is an affirmative defense that tenants can raise in housing court.”
She says that means if tenants are being faced with the eviction process they can tell the court that they lost their income due to COVID-19. Weaver says one major problem is that it will create major gaps in application. “It’s left up to a judge. A judge could decide that it’s true — or that it’s not true — based on the evidence that the tenant can provide,” she continued. “There are over 1,300 different judges in New York State. So that’s leaving a tremendous amount of judicial discretion, and uncertainty.”
Today on The Debrief Podcast, a look at this issue — and why the Democrat-controlled legislature in Albany hasn’t taken up legislative action that would correct this issue. In that discussion — a closer look at what it will mean for renters and advocates alike if nothing is done in the coming days, weeks, or months.
DEBRIEF: How are landlords dealing with unpaid rent during the pandemic? (podcast)
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