Court Rejects NY Landlords’ Claims That Eviction Moratorium Is Unconstitutional

The  U.S. District Court for the Southern District of NY in Elmsford Apartments Associates LLC v. Cuomo  rejected New York landlords’ claims that the New York Covid-19 eviction moratorium (the “Moratorium”) violated their rights under the contracts, takings, due process and petition clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The court ruled that:

1) The moratorium did not violate the takings clause because the landlords failed to prove that they suffered either a physical taking or a regulatory taking.

2) Rejected the argument that the Moratorium “has foisted exclusively upon landlords the burden of rental issues” because “state governments may, in times of emergency or otherwise, reallocate hardships between private parties, including landlords and their tenants, without violating the Takings Clause.”

3) Rejected the claim that the Moratorium violated the contracts clause, noting that the contracts clause: “does not trump the police power of a state to protect the general welfare of its citizens, a power which is paramount to any rights under contracts between individuals. … [When] the challenged law only impairs private contracts, and not those to which the state is a party, courts must accord substantial deference to the State’s conclusion that its approach reasonably promotes the public purpose for which it was enacted.”

4) The Moratorium did not substantially impair the landlords’ contract rights because, in light of the fact that the landlord tenant relationship is already regulated, landlords could not reasonably expect to be free of additional rental regulations.

5) The Moratorium did not prevent landlords from safeguarding or reinstating their rights and that, in the case of evictions, it “merely postpones the date on which landlords may commence summary proceedings against their tenants.

6) The landlords failed to demonstrate a substantial impairment of their property rights in violation of their right to due process[58] or the right to petition the courts.

7) The landlords had not identified a property interest independent of the interests addressed by their other constitutional claims, which was fatal to the due process claim because the “Second Circuit has forbidden this sort of duplication.”

8) The landlords had not shown a deprivation of a property interest because the only complaint was the possibility that “they will have to wait before pursuing the remedies otherwise available to them.”

9) The landlords did not show that the Moratorium violated their right to petition the court because “[a]lthough nonpayment proceedings have been suspended, [landlords] can still sue their tenants for arrearages through a breach of contract action in the New York Supreme Court — and the fact that is not their preferred remedy is of no moment [and they still can] bring eviction proceedings for reason of nonpayment once the order expires, a right preserved by the portion of the [New York moratorium] that extends the relevant statute of limitations for the duration of the court closures.”

For assistance with evictions, call attorney Robert Friedman at (716)542-5444.

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