THE COVID-19 EMERGENCY EVICTION AND FORECLOSURE PREVENTION ACT: PART A – RESIDENTIAL EVICTIONS AND PROCEEDINGS
The COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act (“Act”) is the toughest bill yet to block residential eviction proceedings. This Blog post will focus only on Part A of the Act which deals with Landlord/Tenant Eviction matters.
The Act creates a Standardized Hardship Declaration Form, which tenants, lawful occupants or any other person responsible for making payments under the lease may submit to their Landlord or their agent, to the court or to the Marshal to prevent an eviction or halt a housing court proceeding. The Hardship Declaration requires the person signing to declare that they have a financial hardship related to, or during COVID-19 that prevents them from being able to pay their rent in full or move; or if someone in the household is at increased risk of severe illness from COVID.
Following are the key provisions of Part A of the Act:
- Applies only to residential tenancies; commercial properties are not covered by the Act.
- Applies to non-payment and holdover proceedings, except for holdover proceedings based upon a tenant/occupant who is “persistently and unreasonably engaging in behavior that substantially infringes on the use and enjoyment of the other tenants or causes a substantial safety hazard to others” (the conduct must be specifically described and requires evidence to establish the behavior; mere allegations by the landlord are insufficient evidence).
- Any pending eviction proceedings, or commenced within 30 days of the effective date of the Act (12/28/20), shall be stayed for at least 60 days to give tenants the opportunity to submit a Hardship Declaration.
- Requires landlords to serve a Hardship Declaration along with a list of all not-for-profit legal services providers actively handling housing court matters in the subject county with every predicate notice served (in English and in the tenant’s native language) and; (a) if the tenant returns the Declaration to the landlord the landlord must file the Declaration with the court which prevents the landlord from commencing an eviction proceeding until at least May 1, 2021, (b) if the tenant fails to submit a completed Declaration, then a copy of the Hardship Declaration with an affidavit of service must be filed with the court setting forth proof of service of the Hardship Declaration along with an affidavit stating that (i) no completed Declaration has been received from the tenant, or (ii) that the tenant is “persistently and unreasonably engaging in behavior that substantially infringes on the use and enjoyment of the other tenants or causes a substantial safety hazard to others”.
- Requires the service of an additional Hardship Declaration along with the service of the Notice of Petition.
- The Declaration creates a rebuttable presumption that the tenant is experiencing financial hardship.
- The Act prohibits the courts from entering a default judgment or authorizing the enforcement of an eviction pursuant to a default judgment prior to May 1, 2021 without holding a hearing on notice to the tenant.
- Allows a tenant to vacate a default by mere written or oral request thereby eliminating the need for any formal motion by the tenant.
- Where a warrant of eviction has already issued, execution on the warrant is stayed pending a status conference with the court by motion upon notice.
- If the tenant provides a Hardship Declaration upon a proceeding already underway, then issuance or execution of the warrant shall be stayed until at least May 1, 2021. If the completed Declaration is provided to the landlord, the landlord must file a copy with the court.
- Requires any Warrant to state that the tenant was properly served with a Hardship Declaration, listing the dates the tenant was served; has not submitted a completed Declaration; or that tenant is ineligible for any stay because a court has found that the tenant is “persistently and unreasonably engaging in behavior that substantially infringes on the use and enjoyment of the other tenants or causes a substantial safety hazard to others”.
- Requires, in a case where a court has awarded a judgment against a tenant on the ground of objectionable conduct/nuisance, that the court conduct a hearing to determine whether the tenant is continuing to persist in engaging in unreasonable behavior that substantially infringes on the use and enjoyment of the other tenants or causes a substantial safety hazard to others.
Please contact Daniels Norelli Cecere & Tavel to discuss any questions or issues regarding this new law; we will provide in future postings information concerning Part B of the Act.