What the New Rental Laws Mean for Southern Tier and Finger Lakes

Legislative Column from Congressman Tom Reed (R,C,I-Corning), NY Sen. Thomas O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats), Assemblyman Christopher S. Friend (R,C,I-Big Flats) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I- Corning)

The pandemic response made profound changes to our economy and the earnings of families. Along with our colleagues at the federal and state level, we have been looking at a number of ways to provide relief or remove stumbling blocks to our recovery. Together, in our respective roles, we’ve been fighting for pandemic stimulus relief for individuals and families, extended unemployment benefits and legislation to help small businesses.

Our next great challenge is to protect the progress our communities in the Southern Tier and the Finger Lakes have made improving the housing stock available to renters in our region. We need to ensure the momentum we saw where dilapidated properties were restored, and neighborhoods revitalized can resume during the recovery. This will require teamwork from both renters and landlords. All around, the economic challenge has been fierce for tenants and landlords, the majority of whom are retirees, young couples who have invested in a multi-family home and our friends and neighbors.

A recent NY law passed by the Assembly and Senate Majorities is causing some confusion for the public. Some people have mistakenly believed that rent has been cancelled – this is simply not so. Those renting must be careful to keep up with what they are obligated to pay, however, everyone understands things are difficult right now.

The new law allows for a very narrow set of reasons you can declare hardship to delay eviction until May 1, 2021. You may declare hardship if you have lost income, had increased costs during the COVID-19 pandemic or if moving would pose a significant health risk for you or a member of the household due to underlying medical conditions. In these cases, a hardship declaration may be made and filed with your landlord and/or the Unified Court System. More information may be found here: http://www.nycourts.gov/evictions/outside-nyc.

Even with the new law in place, every effort must be made by the tenant to stay current with rental payments. We emphasize this so renters avoid the legal pitfalls, such as large money judgements against them, which may come from failing to make rental payments, despite a hardship declaration. We highly encourage tenants in financial trouble to speak with their landlord. Starting a conversation now can save a world of trouble for everyone in the future.

We also urge those in financial need to seek out assistance with paying their rent, if they may qualify. You should consider reaching out to your county social services departments: Broome County – 607-778-8850, Chemung County – 607-737-53002, Schuyler County – 607-535-8303, Seneca County – 315-539-1830, Steuben County – 607-664-2000, Tioga County – 607-687-8302, Tompkins County – 607-274-5680 and Yates County – 315-536-5183. Additionally, the Arbor Housing and Development – 607-654-7487, and Catholic Charities: Broome – 607-729-9166, Chemung/Schuyler – 607-734-9784, Finger Lakes (Seneca and Yates) – 315-789-2235, Steuben – 607-776-8085, and Tompkins/Tioga – 607-414-1023 stand ready to assist those in need.

It is imperative that all sides work together to ensure we continue to have healthy and robust residential neighborhoods in the Southern Tier. Cooperative efforts will keep tenants in safe housing and landlords to continue investing in our region, without having to end their efforts in our community because of great and avoidable losses. Restoring what we once had requires teamwork all around and we know that the Southern Tier has what it takes to usher in recovery from this pandemic.