The court issued a short emergency order on Thursday, ruling 6-3 that the law effectively denied landlords the ability to challenge tenants who say they have been hurt by the pandemic.
The provision that was lifted is part of a New York law enacted in late 2020, which allowed a tenant to file a form claiming financial hardship in order to prevent eviction. The court’s conservative bloc said the rules, which allowed tenants to self-declare lost income or that moving could harm their health, were not enforceable.
“This scheme violates the Court’s longstanding teaching that ordinarily ‘no man can be a judge in his own case’ consistent with the Due Process Clause,” the majority wrote.
The three liberal justices dissented, with Justice Steven Breyer noting the moratorium was set to expire in three weeks anyway.
“The New York Legislature is responsible for responding to a grave and unpredictable public health crisis,” Breyer wrote in his dissent. “It must combat the spread of a virulent disease, mitigate the financial suffering caused by business closures and minimize the number of unnecessary evictions.”
Other parts of the law remain intact, including a provision that says judges cannot evict tenants found to have suffered financial hardship linked to the pandemic. Under the law, tenants are still obligated to pay back any rent, and they can still be sued for any missed payments.
Other legal challenges related to eviction moratoriums are working their way through the courts and could soon end up before the Supreme Court, The New York Times added.
The court’s ruling is separate from a federal eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was extended earlier this month amid a fourth wave of the pandemic linked to the delta variant of the coronavirus. That is in place until at least early October.
Cases of COVID-19 have skyrocketed around the nation due to the highly transmissible delta strain, throwing reopening plans into chaos.
New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who is set to become governor on Aug. 24 upon the resignation of Andrew Cuomo, said Thursday she would move to work with lawmakers “to quickly address the Supreme Court’s decision & strengthen the eviction moratorium legislation.”
“No New Yorker who has been financially hit or displaced by the pandemic should be forced out of their home,” Hochul wrote on Twitter. “I will work with our partners in the Legislature to help get the funding available to those in need as soon as possible.”
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