Legal Aid Society


LAS Sues to Reopen New York’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program

The Legal Aid Society today filed a class action lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court seeking a preliminary injunction to force the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) to reopen the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) web portal to resume accepting applications, and contact potential applicants whose attempts to apply were rejected due to OTDA’s unlawful policy, as reported by The New York Times.

The lawsuit was filed against OTDA on behalf of four individual plaintiffs, Housing Court Answers, Coalition for the Homeless, and all tenants in New York State who owe rent to their landlords, are eligible for ERAP, but who are now barred from applying for relief due to OTDA’s premature closure of the program to new applicants. Under the state’s ERAP statute, tenants who have submitted ERAP applications are protected against eviction proceedings pending a decision on their application. However, due to the closure of the ERAP portal, families who otherwise could have applied for ERAP will be vulnerable to eviction when the state’s eviction moratorium expires on January 15, 2022, even though federal funds may not yet have been fully allocated, much less distributed.

“It’s an easy thing for them to do, at no cost to themselves, and will help a lot of people,” said Edward Josephson, Supervising Attorney in the Civil Law Reform Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “Denying New Yorkers the ability to apply for desperately needed rent relief during the ongoing pandemic is cruel and will only exacerbate the public health and economic crisis we are facing.”

The lawsuit argues that OTDA’s refusal as of November 15, 2021 to accept further ERAP applications despite a pending request to the federal government for additional funds, is arbitrary, capricious, beyond the scope of their authority under the ERAP statute.