Cuomo Eviction Moratorium Survives Lawsuit by N.Y. Landlords

A federal judge rejected a lawsuit from three Westchester landlords seeking to end Governor Andrew Cuomo’s moratorium on evictions.

Governors across the nation have issued similar orders, attempting to protect millions of renters put out of work or facing economic uncertainty due to lockdowns and other disruptions. But many landlords argue that prohibitions on evictions leave them no recourse against tenants who don’t pay.

The Westchester County, New York, residential landlords who sued Cuomo claimed his eviction moratorium, announced on March 20 and later extended until Aug. 19, as well as an order allowing tenants to use security deposits to pay rent violated their due process, contract and property rights. They asked the federal court in Manhattan to block the orders.

But U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon on Monday rejected their arguments. She stressed several times that the orders did not remove tenants’ obligation to pay rent, only delayed the ability of landlords to seek redress for unpaid rent.

“As long as the order is in place, tenants will continue to accrue arrearages, which the landlord will be able to collect with interest once the order has expired,” McMahon wrote. “Furthermore, landlords will regain their ability to evict tenants once the order expires.”

McMahon also found the new rules of a similar nature to existing landlord-tenant regulations in New York. “Prior to the order, millions of tenants in this state avoided ever-increasing rents, as well as the threat of immediate eviction, thanks to rules limiting a landlord’s ability to extract the maximum value from their properties,” she said. “Plaintiffs knew that they operated as landlords under those rules.”

Lawyers for the three residential landlords — Elmsford Apartment Associates LLC; 36 Apartment Associates LLC; and 66 Apartment Associates JV — did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Cuomo is facing a similar lawsuit by a group of Manhattan landlords, including the owner of 139 Fulton Street, also known as the Bennett Building, a landmarked cast-iron building in the Financial District dating from 1873.

The case is Elmsford Apartment Associates LLC v. Cuomo, 20-cv-04062, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.

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