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Let’s not mince words in a crisis: Come April 1, millions of New Yorkers are not going to be able to pay rent. The financial help being proposed by the federal government is grossly inadequate. With a maximum payout of $1,200 per person — and many receiving less — this so-called bailout won’t go far: the average rent for a one-bedroom as of February 2020 is $2,890 a month.
Under a moratorium in place for the next three months, pending eviction proceedings are halted, new proceedings cannot be filed, and existing eviction orders are unenforceable. This is good, but it only pushes off the consequences of not paying rent. Tenants who cannot afford rent now can look forward to being evicted in three months.
So what to do? Groups advocating for tenants have pushed a rent moratorium — a complete cancellation of rent, for the duration of the crisis. I believe this would be the best policy step. But I’m a lawyer, so my focus is on the law, and, let’s be clear: Gov. Cuomo has the authority to do what needs to be done. As a matter of law, he can “cancel the rent.”
On March 7, Cuomo declared a “disaster emergency” in New York, and invoked his powers under the executive law. These powers are broad. Cuomo has the sole authority to “temporarily suspend specific provisions” of any state law, if compliance with those provisions would “prevent, hinder, or delay action” to recover from a disaster. Notably, the law also allows for “alteration or modification” of laws.
In order to truly “cancel rent,” Cuomo needs to suspend or modify a provision of the law that makes agreements to pay rent valid legal agreements. It is not enough to simply pause evictions.
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COMMENTS VIA TWITTER
RT @krausewords: Governor Cuomo has the power and legal authority to cancel rents by either a) redefining “rent“ to exclude times of disast…
Gov, please cancel our rents: Cuomo has the power; he should use it https://t.co/uiklhrB8Rr @NYGovCuomo
RT @GregMannarino: Gov, please cancel our rents: Cuomo has the power; he should use it https://t.co/cQve12Ww7l
RT @nahmias: Op-Ed: Gov, please cancel our rents: Cuomo has the power; he should use it https://t.co/GRSjmHEAvH
Gov, please cancel our rents: Cuomo has the power; he should use it https://t.co/GwCxMVhS1U