Staten Island Homeowner is Couch Surfing Because of New York State’s Eviction Laws

Staten Island, NY – New York eviction protection laws were put in place to protect renters during the pandemic – but has the law gone too far? For Staten Island homeowner Karen Alexander, her home has been taken over by someone who used to be a good friend. In September 2019, Alexander decided to live in Florida and signed a two-year lease on her Staten Island house over to a friend. However, after more than two years, the renter and former friend is refusing to leave the home. 

Alexander decided to leave Florida after only two months and move back to New York. She knew she had to uphold the lease agreement and decided to wait until the two years was over to move back into her home, but things took a turn. In January 2020, Alexander’s tenant filed a New York State’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) which would make it impossible for Alexander to evict them. According to New York state, “Once you file for ERAP, you can’t be evicted because your lease has expired, or because you failed to pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“I thought it was the right thing to do… and then COVID hit,” Alexander told SILive.com. “So now I’m paying the taxes while somebody lives in my house for free. It’s insane.” Until she can return home, Alexander has been sleeping on a friend’s couch. While there were protection laws put in place by the Landlord Rental Assistance Program (LRAP) for landlords, they aren’t as strong. The program only assists landlords if the renter hasn’t applied for the ERAP and has no way of helping to evict tenants.

The nationwide eviction moratorium that took place during the pandemic expired in September of last year, but New York extended the moratorium until January 15th of this year. Due to budget falls not every case can be funded and therefore are being pushed back and set in limbo. In Alexander’s case, her tenant’s application is currently in limbo and no court case can be used against them. 

Alexander understands the need for protection from eviction during the pandemic but that there should also be protections set in place for landlords. Once a hardship application has been filed, regardless if there is any hardship or not, there is nothing a landlord can do to evict the tenant. Once a judge is made aware of the application the rental becomes an “Automatic stay” and the tenant can remain there until the application is either approved or denied. 

According to Alexander in a text she shared with SILive.com, her former friend and current tenant said in the message “I’ll be out when I’m ready. Good luck.” The tenant asked for a few months to look for a new place after their lease expired, but has made no effort to pay rent since September of last year. The tenant was unable to provide proof of payment after the initial end of the lease or confirmation Alexander allowed them to remain in the home. 

“I’m enraged. I just want my home back… I want to go home,” Alexander told SILive.com.

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