Ask Sam: What happens if you have a case pending in NYC housing court during the coronavirus crisis?
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, New York City housing courts are shutting down non-essential services and there will be a moratorium on eviction proceedings.
For cases that have already closed and resulted in pending eviction orders, those evictions will be suspended indefinitely as well.
“What that means is that if a judgment or warrant was issued, those scheduled evictions cannot take place,” says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations.
Furthermore, effective March 16th at 5 p.m., all non-essential functions of New York state courts will be postponed.
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The decision was prompted in part by tenant advocates concerned about the risks of having people convene in courts amid the coronavirus crisis. A coalition of advocates, led by Housing Justice for All, was also behind the statewide eviction moratorium.
“There was an outcry about this because the courts initially issued a memo last week that wasn’t strong enough,” Himmelstein says. “The tenant community came together and pressured the court administration and elected officials to do this.”
For the New York City housing court system, this means that each borough will have one judge handling emergency cases, with only essential applications being considered. This includes situations like illegal lockouts, serious housing code violations, and repair orders.
If you’re facing a housing crisis like this, you should call 311, but it’s likely you’ll face slower response times from the city. You can also call Housing Court Answers (a nonprofit providing information to people without lawyers) at 212-962-4795, or call the Met Council on Housing’s tenants’ rights hotline at 212-979-0611.
And for those who have cases currently underway in housing court, expect them to be on hold for now.
"Over the weekend, we were being told that any trial that had already started would be continued, but that is now not the case—they are being adjourned," Himmelstein says.
Courts are expected to be closed (save for emergencies) until at least April 20, so court dates will be rescheduled for after that date.
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Sam Himmelstein, Esq. represents NYC tenants and tenant associations in disputes over evictions, rent increases, rental conversions, rent stabilization law, lease buyouts, and many other issues. He is a partner at Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph in Manhattan. To submit a question for this column, click here. To ask about a legal consultation, email Sam or call (212) 349-3000.