Coming up: state’s eviction moratorium about to end

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 4:56 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - After lasting for almost two years, the state’s eviction moratorium is set to expire Saturday.

For tenants, it means they can be forced out of their apartments - though not immediately.

“It’s getting to the point now where tenants are mostly using a lot of it as an excuse not to pay,” said Michael Hall, owner of North Star Real Estate.

Hall is just one of many landlords glad to see the moratorium come to an end.

The moratorium was originally put in place to protect tenants who were unable to pay their rent because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But it was extended multiple times, leaving landlords with no way to penalize or evict tenants who decided not to pay.

“There are some properties that people haven’t paid rent in a year and six months now, so at this point we just got to get them out of there,” Hall said.

Assemblyman Mark Walczyk, who represents parts of Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, agrees the moratorium has gone on for too long.

“People have private property rights that citizens can contract with one another, and that we don’t need the government to get involved,” Walczyk said.

The New York Times reports there’s talk in Albany of Democrats trying to pass legislation known as “good cause eviction,” which would limit the reasons landlords could use to evict tenants.

But Walczyk says that’s a moot point, this far into the pandemic.

“That tax or that rent that you pay to the government, there hasn’t been a moratorium on that for any landlord, they have continued to pay their rent to the government, while the government has said ‘Yes, but you can’t charge anybody to live in your building,’” Walczyk said.

Those in danger of being evicted will not be immediately forced out of their homes. Landlords must give the tenant a written notice. If the tenant does not comply with the notice, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit with the court.

With the moratorium ending, there may become more of a need for services. That’s where organizations like the Watertown Urban Mission can come into play.

“Call and stop in and talk with one of our knowledgeable staff or one of our partners of our ‘Care Center’ and we will get you connected to the right path,” said Dawn Cole, Executive Director of the Urban Mission.

Many tenants have been told to apply for the Emergency Relief Assistance Program, but Cole says most of the money from that program is spoken for already.

However, a state supreme court ruling earlier this week ordered the state to resume accepting applications - and people who apply for the program have temporary protection from eviction.

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