Long Island Residential Landlords Respond to COVID-19
COVID-19 has brought a lot of uncertainty to everyone’s lives, and if a property owner isn’t exactly in the same position as a gig worker or hourly employee there is nevertheless a lot to think about. Issues of safeguarding tenants, limiting liability, and dealing with inevitable rent disruptions are right at the forefront.
Here are answers to some of the questions that might be on your mind as this crisis continues to unfold.
What are my legal obligations?
As of right now COVID-19 is not creating any new legal obligations. For example, you don’t have an obligation to track cases of the disease moving through your building, nor do you have an obligation to inform tenants if a case breaks out in your building.
It does not hurt to offer information if you have it, as this is a measure that could save lives. At this time doing so should not open you up to any special legal liability.
You do have an obligation to continue keeping your building in good working and safe condition. You might want to double down on cleanliness. It’s also a good idea to communicate with vendors to see how they are navigating the crisis.
You might want to do what you can to limit maintenance staff’s contact with tenants and each other. If you have office staff see what you can do to send them home. Again, you have no legal obligation to do this, but these are measures which could save a lot of lives.
Can I close common areas?
Check your lease agreements. While most tenants will probably understand and comply, you don’t want to do it if it’s going to violate their contracts.
Double check with your real estate attorney before moving forward, even if you can’t find anything in your lease which would seem to prevent you. From there, it’s probably fine to go ahead, though you might want to keep the laundry rooms open.
If few tenants congregate in these areas to begin with it might not be worth your while to create the legal issue.
Can I evict tenants right now?
New York State has suspended all non-essential court cases. In landlord/tenant court that does include eviction cases. They are still hearing lockout cases, as well as health, safety, and housing code violations.
In short, you can’t get them into court and it’s probably not worth it to try. Even before housing court restrictions major landlords pledged a 90-day moratorium on evictions for anything other than “criminal or negligent behavior.”
While you’re not obligated to provide any form of rent relief it may create considerable goodwill to offer it if you’ve got the resources to do so. Your own bank is probably not going to be so kind though, so consider your options carefully.
Other questions about running your rental property in this trying time?
Just call the Law Office of Sami Perez to get your questions answered.