COVID-19 brought with it many new questions for New Yorkers. Can I leave my house during lockdown? How can I stay safe? Aside from health concerns, financial worries are rife amongst a lot of residents in the city right now – with job cuts and pay slashes becoming the norm across some key industries.
Luckily, there may be some respite for some renters being hit by financial hardships; The NYC Rent Freeze Program is set to bring forward talks to freeze or roll-back rent for the city’s one million rent stabilized units. As with everything new that has been thrown at us in 2020, you’ve probably got questions.
We’ve gathered some Q and As on the key things you need to know about the rent freeze in NYC.
What is the NYC Rent Freeze Program all about?
The NYC Rent Freeze Program was actually introduced back in 2016, for people living in a rent-regulated property in New York City. It was put in place to stop rent increases on one-year and two-year lease renewals. The program was implemented to help eligible seniors or those with disabilities stay in affordable housing.
This year, the Rent Guidelines Board have engaged in preliminary conversations about how to handle rent freezes for the city’s stabilized units.
Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, other groups of people in New York and around the world have been faced with brand-new financial hardships – with many feeling anxious about whether they’ll be able to afford to pay rent and bills.
In response, there have been speculations about rent assistance from the government for renters. In an announcement on 7th May, Mayor de Blasio did not confirm that he would be freezing rent for tenants in non-controlled apartments, but he did announce that New Yorkers can use their security deposits to pay rent.
He said: “I urge the state to act and to allow renters to use their security deposits to pay rent. There is no reason at this point given how much dislocation has occurred that a security deposit sitting in a bank account… can help the renter, help the landlord have money to pay for their expenses.”
Am I eligible for rent freeze?
If you are 62 years or older, or you have a disability, and you earn below $50,000, you may be eligible for the NYC Rent Freeze Program. To be sure, use this rent freeze qualifier tool.
Right now, there’s no explicit rent relief for people living in New York, if they don’t qualify for the Rent Freeze Program. A housing advocacy organization, Housing Justice for All, is currently pushing for a statewide rent freeze, so there may be updates in the near future.
In short, you have to continue paying rent if you’re not eligible for assistance from the government – at least until we hear otherwise from official sources.
Will I be evicted if I can’t pay rent?
On March 20th this year, Mayor de Blassio announced a 90-day ban on evictions through an executive order to protect tenants who may be going through some hardships at the minute. However, that doesn’t mean you’re not obligated to pay rent. The moratorium was put in place to provide temporary relief to those struggling, who can at least feel confident that they won’t be evicted.
More recently, Cuomo extended the 90-day moratorium until August 20th 2020. We’re expecting more updates to be released closer to this date.
Might they freeze my rent sometime soon?
Possibly. There are discussions around suspending rent in the city, with de Blasio saying at a news conference, “If ever there was a time there should be a rent freeze, it is now.”
There is a proposed rent freeze bill in committee, which needs support from Andrew Cuomo before it can be passed. It would help those that have been affected financially by the pandemic, such as residents left without work or who have had salary cuts, and small business tenants that can no longer operate.