Attorney General James reminds landlords not to raise rents if they accept pandemic rental assistance

Landlords receiving emergency rental payments
Assistance program cannot raise rents for 12 months

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today issued a notice to landlords reminding them that they cannot raise rents if they accept or plan to accept housing assistance program financing. the state emergency rental (ERAP), which was recently expanded in the state budget. Landlords who accept payments from the program are prohibited from raising rents for one year after receiving the funds. Attorney General James is prepared to take action to protect tenants if landlords fail to follow ERAP rules.

“The rules are clear: landlords who accept ERAP payments cannot increase rents for 12 months,” said Attorney General James. “This program was created to support struggling tenants and keep New Yorkers in their homes during the pandemic. Landlords who have accepted state payments but continue to raise rents are double deducting and breaking the law. I urge any tenant who has accepted ERAP payments and received a new lease with rent increases from their landlord to contact my office.

ERAP is a rent relief program that provides support to low- and middle-income tenants across the state who have been unable to pay rent during the pandemic. Since the state began accepting applications in June 2021, it has provided hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers with financial support to pay off rent arrears. It pays up to 12 months of accumulated rent arrears as of March 13, 2020 as well as up to three months of additional rent assistance in the future. Additionally, the program pays up to 12 months of electric or gas utility arrears that accrued on or after March 13, 2020. The program was recently endowed with an additional $800 million.

Owners who accept ERAP payments have agreed:

  • Do not increase the amount of the monthly rent for one year from the receipt of the PARE payment;
  • To waive the late fees due on any arrears of rent covered by the payment of the PARE; and
  • Do not evict PARE beneficiaries when their lease expires. This does not apply if the apartment is in a building with four or fewer units and the owner or their immediate family members intend to immediately occupy the unit for use as their principal residence.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has received reports from tenants that landlords who have accepted ERAP payments are sending them lease renewals with rent increases within the 12-month grace period. While these leases may be generated automatically by management, landlords are cautioned not to ask for rent increases when renewing or new leases that begin within the 12 month period.

“Now more than ever, it’s critical that New York City tenants take responsibility and know their rights under ERAP, and that landlords follow the law,” said Judith Goldiner, Lead Lawyer, Civil Law Reform Unit, The Legal Aid Society. “We commend Attorney General James for warning landlords and emphasizing that there will be serious consequences for unscrupulous landlords.”

“The Emergency Rental Assistance Program has been an effective tool in ensuring tenants can stay housed during a global health crisis,” said Meghan Zickl, Legal Tenants Advocate, PUSH Buffalo. “Continuing to fund ERAP is a decision we are relieved the New York State Legislature made a priority in the latest state budget. However, we remain concerned about landlords who will take advantage of this mutually beneficial program and seek to undermine tenant protections by raising rent in the first year, charging excessive late fees or even trying to move their tenants, while accepting the PARE. We saw this happen in the previous round of ERAP funding, and we need to stay aware of these trends and address them if our goal is to stabilize our communities.

“The state law that implemented ERAP took steps to promote housing stability,” said Jill Bradshaw-Soto, Esq, Program Manager, Hudson Valley Legal Services. “Our clients face many barriers to maintaining safe and sustainable housing and these challenges have increased during the pandemic. As the majority of tenants in Housing Court are unrepresented, it is essential that tenants and landlords are informed and understand the ERAP program and its protections. »

“During the COVID19 pandemic, hundreds of families in North Brooklyn have struggled to stay safe and healthy, but lost income has struggled to meet housing costs,” said Frank Lang, Director of Housing, St. Nicks Alliance. “In 2021, St. Nicks Alliance supported over 200 households to apply for the Emergency Housing Assistance Program (ERAP) so that these families did not become homeless. Homeowners who have received ERAP funds are reminded to comply with program regulations. For tenants who have received ERAP assistance, we encourage them to seek the help of a housing counselor to ensure that their housing rights are protected.

Attorney General James offers the following advice and guidance to tenants who have received PARE funding:

  • Return leases that have a rent increase. Leases that include an increase within 12 months of your landlord receiving PARE payments must be returned to your landlord with a note explaining that the landlord has received PARE payments and cannot increase the rent. Tenants should follow up with management to explain why the lease is inappropriate and request that a new lease be issued.
  • Watch your rent statements. Check your rent statements to make sure your rent hasn’t gone up or your landlord is charging you a late fee for one of the months covered by the PARE payment.
  • Don’t ignore court documents. Even if your landlord received an ERAP payment or you submitted an ERAP application, don’t ignore court documents.
  • Speak with a lawyer. If your landlord is suing you or you have questions about your lease, you should talk to a lawyer. You can visit OAG Tenant Assistance Website find free legal representation.

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