Coronavirus Rental Assistance Programs: A Closer Look

Rental Assistance Program

NOTE: New York City Marshals began executing first legal residential evictions since the pandemic closed courts across the state in March. Marshals are required to submit their executing warrants of eviction on the Citywide Performance Reporting database. 

Various federal and state rules prohibit landlords from evicting tenants who cannot pay their rent because of COVID-19 issues.

These rules do not always protect tenants, and according to some, they also unfairly expose landlords to financial stress.

Most eviction moratorium rules only allow landlords to launch evictions in rare circumstances. But many landlords have found ways to bypass these restrictions.

Refusing to renew a lease is one example.

In most jurisdictions, if the lease is about to end, landlords must only give one month’s notice. Others evict nonpaying tenants for ticky-tack rules violations, such as failing to remove a hitch from a mobile home or smoking in a no-smoking area.

“Since the pandemic started, and courts froze their dockets or had moratoriums, we’ve seen a huge spike in tactics from landlords to get people out,” remarked Eric Dunn, an attorney with the National Housing Law Project.

Some of these tactics include “changing locks, cutting off utility service, refusing to make repairs, making threats, providing misinformation and any other creative way to accuse someone of a lease violation that fits an exception in the moratorium,” he added.

Many ousted tenants have a hard time finding alternative housing. Moving expenses and security deposits are prohibitively expensive for many families.

Some landlords, especially individuals, are experiencing difficulties as well.

One Massachusetts landlord went to court because a tenant had not paid rent for eight months and owed nearly $19,000. Tony LaGrande, a Wisconsin landlord, watched his property go into foreclosure.

“I didn’t have any rent coming in, and people wouldn’t pay. It was a really messed up situation. I spent my entire life savings on this project,” he said.

In most states, the Attorney General can serve as a mediator, but not file wrongful eviction claims in these situations.

Burden of Proof in Court

In many disputes, whether they are legal or non-legal, there are two sides to the story.

While a New York personal injury attorney always takes your side, there are some times an attorney must give some frank legal advice, usually with regard to the burden of proof in a claim.

Plaintiffs must establish personal injury and other civil claims by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not.

Many people are familiar with the statue of blind justice with the scales in her hand. If one scale is a tiny bit heavier than the other one, that’s a picture of a preponderance of the evidence.

So, when an attorney collects evidence to build your injury or other claim, a little proof usually goes a long way.

Criminal court is different. The burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. The definition of this phrase varies in different jurisdictions.

Generally, however, the state’s proof must be so overwhelming that the prosecutor’s version is the only reasonable interpretation of the facts.

Dispute Resolution Methods

In many cases, mediation is a legitimate alternative to a trial. Mediation reduces legal fees, hastens the resolution of the case, and gives the parties more control over the outcome.

Mediation’s success rate varies in different contexts.

In divorce and other family law matters, mediation is about 90 percent successful.

Generally, the parties agree on broad principles but disagree on the specifics. A professional mediator knows how to build on common ground to make solutions.

Mediation generally works in personal injury claims, although the success rate is not quite as high. Many feel insurance companies do not care about their policyholders.

So, car crash and other personal injury mediation is usually just a matter of agreeing on a settlement figure. However, many injury claims are quite complex, because many defenses are often available.

Finally, mediation sometimes works in civil claims, such as COVID-related landlord/tenant disputes. Both parties usually have very strong feelings.

So, neither one is particularly willing to compromise.

Your attorney must be a good litigator and a good negotiator. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC.
Virtual appointments are possible.