Judge Rules Against Landlords Challenging NY Governor Cuomo’s Eviction Moratorium

June 29, 2020 Updated: June 29, 2020

A federal judge on Monday rejected a challenge by a group of New York landlords who were seeking to end an executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that provided relief to renters.

In May, Cuomo extended the state’s moratorium on evictions amid the CCP virus pandemic until Aug. 20. The order temporarily prohibits landlords from initiating eviction proceedings against tenants who are unable to meet their rent obligations during the pandemic. The order also bans late payments or fees for missed rent payments and also allows renters who are facing financial hardships to use their security deposit as payment provided the renter repay their security deposit at a later date.

Three Westchester-based landlords—Elmsford Apartment Associates LLC, 36 Apartment Associates LLC, and 66 Apartment Associates J.V.—sued Cuomo in an attempt to block his executive order. They say the state’s measure violated their contracts, due process, and property rights under the U.S. Constitution.

The landlords argued that the order effectively blocks them from “commencing any eviction proceeding against any residential tenant” because of non-payment, according to the complaint (pdf). They argued that while renters are afforded relief, landlords are prevented from “asserting their rights and obtaining relief to protect their property” while they remain obligated to “pay their own carrying costs and other expenses, including taxes to the various governmental divisions of New York state.”

U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in her opinion (pdf) rejected the landlords’ arguments, saying that the state’s order does not remove the renter’s obligation to pay rent, but “merely postpones the date on which landlords may commence summary proceedings against their tenants.”

“As long as the order is in place, tenants will continue to accrue arrearages, which the landlord will be able to collect with interest once the Order has expired,” the judge wrote.

“Furthermore, landlords will regain their ability to evict tenants once the Order expires. Since EO 202.28 is temporary on its face, and does not disturb the landlords’ ability to vindicate their property rights.”

McMahon also said that even if the landlords have a claim, they filed it in the wrong court.

“Federal courts do not have the power to address claims that Governor Cuomo has violated state law,” McMahon wrote. “While it may be the case that Governor has overstepped his authority under New York’s Executive Law, curing those alleged harms would require this Court to ignore the doctrine of state sovereign immunity and principles of federalism embodied in the Eleventh Amendment.”

New York experienced the highest number of CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus cases among the 50 states during the pandemic, with over 216,000 cases as of June 29. Meanwhile, the country has seen over 2 million cases nationwide. The pandemic has left thousands without jobs, with the nation’s unemployment rate reaching record highs in April at 14.7 percent.

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