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LAS Suit Challenges Rule Limiting Eviction Relief for Families

The Legal Aid Society has filed a lawsuit with the law firm Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP against New York State on behalf of all low-income families in New York City who are seeking to apply for the Family Homelessness and Eviction Prevention Supplement (FHEPS) program and have been unable to do so because of the “Lawsuit Requirement,” as reported by THE CITY.

The suit seeks to temporarily waive the onerous regulation, which requires that families demonstrate that they are being evicted for failure to pay rent before they can qualify for FHEPS rent subsidies.

With housing court closed to new eviction cases since March due to the pandemic, New Yorkers who might have qualified because of difficulty paying rent have been shut out of the voucher system, the complaint charges.

Not only must many families have an eviction proceeding filed against them in order to qualify for FHEPS, but the state rules also disqualify any household that owes over $9,000 in rent. That’s common now among those unable to pay rent in almost a year because of the COVID-19 crisis, explained Lilia Toson, a Legal Aid attorney litigating the case.

“Every time there’s a delay in acting on this, you reduce people’s chances of eligibility,” Toson said.