What to do with your apartment if you been laid off or furloughed?

Some general tips on how to effectively communicate with your landlord and strategies on how to navigate this difficult time

Since Governor Cuomo issued the isolation in place order for New York, I received numerous inquiries from previous rental clients and also my network at large regarding what they should do about their apartment (and rent) now that they have been laid off or furloughed? I will be very candid and shared that this pandemic is unprecedented (at least in my lifetime) and there are no previous experiences to draw on. What I can offer are some general tips on how to effectively communicate with your landlord and gut instincts on how to navigate this difficult time. 

If you have lost your job or suffered financial hardship (steep pay cuts in larger companies are common) as a result of the pandemic that rendered you unable to pay your monthly rent. And/or if you decided to terminate your lease as a result of your inability to pay the rent. Make sure to write to your landlord clearly stating your situation and what you hope they can help you with, i.e. postpone rent collection, partial payment, early termination, etc. As a general rule of thumb, all communication with your landlord should always be written and recorded. Having recorded communication allows you to timestamp the exchange in case the matter is time sensitive, and if the matter ever escalates to the housing court, you can offer these written communication as evidence. 

Another general rule of thumb is that you will get a better result if you put yourself in the shoes of your landlord and communicate with empathy. They are also experiencing this unprecedented crisis and have no point of reference to draw upon. And insofar, very little guidance was offered from the government regarding the future of a city where renters make up nearly two-thirds of the population (largest in the country). What I do know for sure is that (most) landlords want to work with you to mitigate your situation. It is not the best time to look for new tenants during a pandemic and there might be something for them in the stimulus package for lost rent in the near future. I have been successful in representing two of my clients in getting their rent defer for 90 days with this strategy.

Regardless of how your landlord chooses to respond. Know your rights, governor Cuomo issued an eviction moratorium for the next 90 days (this post is written on April 21st, 2020). So your landlord will not be able to process the eviction procedure against you during this period.  This is our basic protection as New York residents - that in the face of this global crisis, you will not be homeless.

Of course, this does not mean that your landlord will not try to collect the owed rent after the fact. Or that there is no risk of you ending up in housing court which can seriously damage your credit and opportunity to rent or purchase property in the future. But if you are suffering from financial hardship from this pandemic, like too many New York renters, (homeowners can claim mortgage forbearance, another post on this later) and you can prove it with time stamped written communication, I have a feeling that your case will be look on favorably by the housing court judge.

​​​​​​​If you should have any pressing concerns during this crisis regarding your housing, know that New York is a very tenant friendly city with many housing advocacy groups to turn to. NYC311 should be your first line of defense for anything housing related and if you have a tenant’s agent that helped you rent your apartment, he/she can be a great asset in helping you navigate a difficult situation. Lastly, be safe!

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Su doesn't see clients as mere transactions but as real human beings with real human needs. She is passionate about educating and empowering clients to make smart decisions, and as a devoted and human-centric advocate.

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