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LAS Sounds Alarm as Executive Order Pausing Default Judgments Expires

The Legal Aid Society and housing advocates throughout New York are calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to extend the toll of the statute of limitations on executive orders pausing default judgments against struggling New Yorkers who have been sued for failure to pay rent during the coronavirus pandemic. The order – first issued in March and renewed monthly since – is set to expire on Nov. 4, with no indication from Gov. Cuomo that he intends to renew it, according to Law 360.

Housing advocates are warning that the courts have not done enough to alert tenants about the potential for defaulting their cases after the expiration of the order, pointing specifically to the need to respond to nonpayment petitions within 10 days in order to avoid defaulting in court. Legal Aid attorneys say that as many as 14,800 New York City heads of households may soon be put at risk of losing their cases by default due to the confusion, and urged the city to reach out and alert vulnerable renters. For months, the courts have advised tenants to hold off answering until further notice from the courts. After changing the policy, the courts have failed to notify tenants of the risk of losing their case from defaults. OCA’s spokesperson Lucien Chalfen indicated that cases where the tenant failed to answer may move on a faster track than the pre COVID 19 cases.

“We’ve been talking to tenants who have called the courts and been told by the courts that they don’t need to answer right now,” said Ellen Davidson, a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society. “I think Cuomo should continue the toll of the statute of limitations and the courts should come up with a plan to contact the people they told not to answer.”