Updated: May 1, 2020
Commercial Tenants —are protected under a state eviction moratorium that is in effect until at least June 20. Initially, New York Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks announced a suspension in court evictions, but a loophole briefly allowed landlords to file new eviction cases. An executive order from the Governor Cuomo closed that loophole by blocking new cases until at least to May 7) and enacting a statewide eviction moratorium for 90 days.
A new directive stressing that no new filings can occur except for “essential matters,” which includes landlord lockouts, emergency repair orders, and serious code violations. So, for the next three months, Commercial New York tenants cannot be legally evicted from their businesses — full stop.
But that doesn’t mean some landlords won’t try; housing attorneys and tenant hotlines have been busy fielding questions from frazzled tenants receiving misinformation, or even threats.
What does an eviction moratorium mean for me as a commercial tenant?
The moratorium covers both residential and commercial tenants, and will be in place until at least June 20. If you had a pending eviction case those proceedings have been temporarily adjourned. If you recently received a notice of eviction, that by itself is not enough for your landlord to evict you; a landlord must get an order from the court to legally evict a tenant, even if their lease has expired or they are behind on rent. Now that evictions are halted, the moratorium defers those proceedings and temporarily protects tenants.
If I won’t be evicted, do I still have to pay rent?
Short answer: Yes; the eviction moratorium does not cancel rent payments, and if you can, you should still pay your rent. Not paying rent can open a legal pandora’s box that enables a landlord to bring a nonpayment case against a tenant once the moratorium is lifted.
That may not be feasible for many businesses who recently lost cash flow. This is why the eviction moratorium exists.
Can my landlord still file a nonpayment or eviction case against me?
Eviction proceedings are paused for the time being. Cuomo’s executive order initially blocked new cases until April 19 and the governor has since extended that pause to May 7. This means that come early-May, New York landlords will have the option to file new nonpayment and eviction cases against tenants, but those new cases will be temporarily adjourned.
Even if a landlord tries to get the ball rolling by filing a new case in May, tenants are currently not at risk of a default judgement if they don’t respond in court. It bears repeating that the courts are closed for nonessential functions and that tenants cannot be evicted with the moratorium in place until at least June 20.
But my landlord is still threatening to evict me. What do I do?
“There’s nothing landlords can do to get you out legally right now. The law is on your side.”
But if your landlord shows up at your door and claims you’ve been evicted or tries to change the locks, shut off utilities, or physically remove your belongings, you can call the police and explain that your landlord is engaging in an illegal eviction, (It is a criminal misdemeanor to illegally evict a tenant in New York.)
So remember: No matter what your landlord tells you, you are protected under the moratorium.