FAQs: New York City Renters’ Rights during COVID-19

Know your rights and learn what the Supreme Court’s latest eviction ruling means for NYC.

Last Updated 09/02/21

On Thursday, August 26, the US Supreme Court struck down a federal eviction freeze designed to keep tenants housed in New York City and other places with high rates of COVID-19. But on September 1st, Gov. Hochul signed a law amending and extending New York’s eviction protections through January 15, 2022. 

See below for answers to frequently asked questions about NYC renters’ rights during COVID-19:

I submitted a Hardship Declaration and/or a CDC Declaration to my landlord or the court, what protections do I have?

Can I be physically removed from my home?

I have fallen behind on my rent. What do I do?

My landlord is threatening to evict me. What can I do?

1. I submitted a Hardship Declaration and/or a CDC Declaration to my landlord or the court, what protections do I have?

    • On September 1, 2021, Gov. Hochul signed a law, providing that if you previously submitted a Hardship Declaration (see below) to your landlord or the court, no steps may be taken to evict you until at least January 15, 2022 (subject to the exceptions outlined below)
    • On August 26, 2021, the Supreme Court issued an order vacating the CDC’s nationwide moratorium on evictions of any tenants who submit a CDC Declaration.
      • This means CDC Declarations no longer protect tenants from evictions.
      • If you submitted a CDC Declaration only, you should submit a Hardship Declaration to your landlord and/or the court as soon as possible.

2. Can I be physically removed from my home?

Was a judgment of possession and warrant of eviction issued against you and/or were you served with a Notice Eviction?

  • If YES, before you can be removed, your landlord must file a motion, asking the court for permission to move forward with the eviction, AND the court must hold a status conference.
    • If you provide a Hardship Declaration (see below) to your landlord or the court, you cannot be removed until at least January 15, 2022 (subject to the exceptions outlined below)
  • If NO, see the section below addressing New & Pending Cases

New & Pending Eviction Cases

Were you served with a Notice of Petition and Petition, indicating that your landlord has commenced an eviction case against you in NYC Housing Court?

    • If YES, if you provide a Hardship Declaration (see below) to your landlord or the court, the case is stayed until at least January 15, 2022 (subject to the exceptions outlined below)
      • Email your Hardship Declaration to the housing court for your borough:
    • If NO, if you provide a Hardship Declaration (see below) to your landlord, your landlord cannot commence an eviction case against you until at least January 15, 2022 (subject to the exceptions outlined below)

    • In addition, if you apply for rental assistance from ERAP (see below), your landlord cannot commence or move forward with an eviction case against you, until you receive a decision regarding your eligibility for ERAP.
      • If you applied for ERAP but also owe rent from before March 14, 2020, the judge may allow the case to move forward, unless you submit a Hardship Declaration.

Default Judgement

Normally, if you fail to timely “Answer” a Notice of Petition and Petition, your landlord can obtain a “default judgment” of possession and warrant of eviction against you, and proceed with removing you from your home.

    • As of September 1, 2021, your landlord cannot obtain a default judgment against you until at least January 15, 2022, unless the landlord first files a motion, and the court holds a hearing
      • If you provide a Hardship Declaration (see below) to your landlord or the court, the case is stayed until at least January 15, 2022 (subject to the exceptions outlined below)
    • If a default judgment was issued against you prior to December 28, 2020, or between August 13, 2021 and September 1, 2021:
      • The judge must remove the default judgment upon your request; and
      • If you provide a Hardship Declaration (see below) to your landlord or the court, the case is stayed until at least January 15, 2022 (subject to the exceptions outlined below)

Hardship Declaration

You cannot be evicted until at least January 15, 2022, if you provide your landlord or the court with a declaration, indicating that you qualify for eviction protection because:

    • You are experiencing financial hardship, unable to pay your rent in full, or unable to obtain alternative suitable permanent housing because of: 
      • Significant loss of household income during COVID-19 pandemic;
      • Increase in necessary out-of-pocket expenses related to performing essential work or health impacts during COVID-19 pandemic; 
      • Inability to obtain meaningful employment or earn income, or increase in necessary out-of-pocket expenses, due to childcare responsibilities or responsibilities to care for an elderly, disabled, or sick family member during COVID-19 pandemic; 
      • Hardship to relocate during COVID-19 pandemic, due to moving expenses and difficulty securing alternative housing; or 
      • Inability to obtain meaningful employment or earn income, or significant reduction in income or increase in expenses, due to other circumstances related to COVID-19 pandemic; and / or
    • Vacating and moving into new permanent housing would pose a significant health risk because you or household member have an increased risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19 due to being over age of 65, having a disability, or having an underlying medical condition

Exceptions: Evictions protections by submitting Hardship Declaration do not apply if:

    • Petition filed against you alleges nuisance: “unreasonable behavior that substantially infringes on the use and enjoyment of other tenants or occupants or causes substantial safety hazard to others.”
    • Petition filed against you alleges that you intentionally caused significant damage to the property
    • Your landlord files a motion, alleging that you have not experienced hardship and, after a hearing, the court determines that your hardship claim is invalid 

Visit this website to download the Hardship Declaration in several languages: https://nycourts.gov/eefpa/

3. I have fallen behind on my rent. What do I do?

    • To date, no law has been passed that would absolve you of your obligation to pay rent; accordingly, you are still legally required to pay all rent owed to your landlord.
    • However, the Tenant Safe Harbor Act provides that you cannot be evicted (via a judgment of possession and warrant of eviction) for nonpayment of rent for the “COVID-19 covered period” beginning March 7, 2020 and ending June 24, 2021, if you have suffered financial hardship during such period.
      • However, your landlord can still get a money judgment against you for unpaid rent during the COVID-19 covered period.
      • Further, if you fell behind on rent, or a judgment of possession and warrant of eviction were issued against you, prior to March 7, 2020, or you have fallen behind on rent after June 24, 2021, you are still vulnerable to eviction, subject to the protections described above.
    • New York has established ERAP to distribute over $2.7 billion of federal funds, and cover up to one year of rental arrears, beginning on March 13, 2020, and up to three months of rent after you apply.
      • To qualify, renters must demonstrate: household income at or below 80% AMI (in 2020 OR at time of application); experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 (e.g. qualified for unemployment, experienced reduction in household income; incurred significant costs); risk of homelessness.
      • The program will prioritize, among other things, households below 50% AMI; households with individuals who have been unemployed for 90 days prior to application; victims of domestic violence; eviction case pending
        • Households living in state or federally-subsidized housing (e.g. NYCHA, Section 8, FHEPS, CityFHEPS) will be last priority.
      • Undocumented New Yorkers may qualify, and documentation of immigration status will not be required as part of the application process.
      • No eviction proceeding may be commenced against an applicant for this program, and any pending eviction proceedings shall be stayed pending determination of application.

If you cannot pay all of the rent owed, you can: 

    • Talk to your landlord, and try to negotiate a payment plan.
    • Before you apply for a one-shot deal from HRA, you must first apply for ERAP

4. My landlord is threatening to evict me. What can I do?

    • If your landlord illegally locks you out, call 911 to be restored to your apartment.
    • Report harassment or discrimination by contacting 311.

Joint Statement: Governor Cuomo Must Resign

The New York State Attorney General’s investigation of Governor Andrew Cuomo has revealed multiple and repeated allegations of sexual harassment and assault against eleven women, as well as a toxic work environment that has persisted throughout his three terms as governor.

The New York State Attorney General’s investigation of Governor Andrew Cuomo has revealed multiple and repeated allegations of sexual harassment and assault against eleven women, as well as a toxic work environment that has persisted throughout his three terms as governor.

Our elected officials pledge to uphold the rule of law and to protect human rights. Governor Cuomo has irrevocably broken this oath and severed the trust of New Yorkers.

The Governor’s disregard for women’s rights and equality cannot be tolerated. It is clear to us that Governor Cuomo is unfit for elected office and is no longer able to serve the people of New York. As a coalition of New York-based organizations dedicated to ending sexual harassment, violence, and discrimination against women we call on Governor Cuomo to step down immediately.

We also urge the authorities to hold Governor Cuomo and his office accountable for any and all violations of both state and local law, as well as the administration’s efforts to discredit and retaliate against the women who have accused the Governor of sexual misconduct.

It takes great courage to come forward with allegations of sexual harassment, especially against someone in a position of power. The public shaming and discrediting by the Cuomo administration and legal team create a chilling effect for other women to speak out and demand justice.

We stand with the survivors of Cuomo as well as all survivors of sexual harassment and violence. We believe you and we will fight for you.

In solidarity,

  • Taina Bien-Amie, Executive Director, CATW
  • Yasmeen Hassan, Executive Director, Equality Now
  • Lauren Hersch, National Director, World Without Exploitation
  • Judy Harris Kluger, Executive Director, Sanctuary for Families
  • Jane Manning, Director, Women’s Equal Justice Project
  • Sonia Ossorio, President, NOW New York
  • Lynn Shaw, Founder & Executive Director, Lynn’s Warriors
  • Shandra Woworuntu, CEO & Founder, Mentari

New York Appellate Court issues landmark ruling on DVSJA in the case of Nicole Addimando

The application of the DVSJA in Nicole’s case sets a high bar for the compassionate treatment of survivors in the criminal justice system.

On July 14, 2021, Sanctuary for Families and the Incarcerated Gender Violence Survivors Initiative were part of a legal team that achieved a remarkable, ground-breaking result for domestic violence survivors in New York State. On that day, a New York appellate court dramatically reduced the sentence of defendant Nicole Addimando—by more than a decade—because she had demonstrated that her crime was directly related to the severe abuse she had suffered for years at the hands of her domestic partner. For the first time, an appellate court applied New York’s revolutionary Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA) to ensure that a survivor’s experiences were credited and that she received a compassionate sentence in line with a modern understanding of the effects of prolonged abuse.

The Incarcerated Gender Violence Survivors Initiative

What does it take to change systems that have historically been stacked against survivors of abuse, particularly women of color? The answer to this question was the foundation of our Incarcerated Gender Violence Survivors Initiative. Formed in 2017 by Sanctuary attorneys and pro bono partners, the Initiative seeks to secure the release of gender violence survivors who have been imprisoned in New York State for crimes committed after prolonged domestic abuse, through a comprehensive approach: legislation, legal representation, training, and education.

In 2019, the Initiative, along with survivors and advocates across New York, achieved a major success when New York enacted the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (“DVSJA”) after nearly a decade of hard-fought advocacy.

The DVSJA affords judges the discretion to impose reduced sentences if a defendant was “a victim of domestic violence subjected to substantial physical, sexual or psychological abuse inflicted by a member of the same family or household,” the abuse was “a significant contributing factor” to the crime, and, taking all of the circumstances into account, a standard sentence would be “unduly harsh.” The DVSJA allows defendants to seek a reduced sentence after conviction, and it also allows defendants who were sentenced before the DVSJA’s enactment the opportunity to apply for re-sentencing.

In New York, the passage of the DVSJA was hailed as a major victory by advocates of criminal justice reform and the movement to end gender violence. To be effective, however, laws must be applied as intended. Since 2019, Initiative members have worked to educate practitioners and courts on the DVSJA, but until the Nicole Addimando case there was no clear legal precedent on how it should be properly applied.

Nicole Addimando

Nicole Addimando is the proud mother of two young children who was living in Poughkeepsie, NY. At the age of 19, she began dating the father of her children. Throughout their nine-year relationship, Nicole’s partner became increasingly abusive, including sadistic sexual and physical violence, threats, and psychological and emotional manipulation. One night in 2017, he brandished a gun and threatened to kill both Nicole and himself, leaving their children to grow up parent-less. That night, Nicole used the gun to kill him.

In April 2020, following a jury trial, Nicole was convicted of second-degree murder and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon. Despite detailed testimony and evidence outlining one of the most extreme histories of abuse we at Sanctuary and many others in the field have seen, the trial judge ruled that the DVSJA should not apply in her case, and she should not receive a reduced sentence. Using a badly outdated understanding of the effects of prolonged domestic abuse, the judge concluded, among other things, that the history of abuse was somehow unclear, and that Nicole could have easily and safely escaped from her abusive home and relationship. Nicole was shockingly given a prison term of 19 years to life.

For advocates in New York State and across the country, the sentencing decision was disheartening. Nicole Addimando was precisely the kind of survivor for whom the DVSJA was written and enacted.

The Appeal

Sanctuary Board Member and Sullivan & Cromwell partner Garrard Beeney and a team of Sullivan & Cromwell lawyers took on the massive undertaking of filing an appeal on Nicole’s behalf. He and his team moved quickly, forming a powerful coalition including, among others, Sanctuary, The Legal Aid Society, and Nicole’s trial attorneys, to challenge both the conviction and the judge’s failure to apply the DVSJA at sentencing.

The appeal demonstrated that the trial judge’s refusal to apply the DVSJA reflected deeply flawed understandings of the dynamics of abuse, the impact on survivors’ memories, the risk assessment survivors make when determining life or death situations, and the application of the DVSJA — views that unfortunately pervade our justice system.

One of the roles Sanctuary took on was to coordinate the filing of two amicus briefs (supplemental legal briefs submitted by third parties to provide judges with additional background or information on the potential impacts of a decision). First, a team of deeply trauma-informed attorneys at the firm of Davis Polk drafted an amicus brief about the impact of trauma on survivors’ memories and the way trauma informs survivors’ decisions, to be filed on behalf of a group of domestic violence service providers. Second, a devoted team of attorneys at the firm of Duane Morris drafted a highly insightful amicus brief detailing the legislative history of the DVSJA and its intended application, to be filed on behalf of the very New York State legislators who drafted and passed the statute.

On April 22, 2021, Garrard Beeney argued the case before a panel of four judges from the Appellate Division – Second Department. Oral argument lasted approximately two hours and can be viewed here. 

On July 14, 2021, the appellate court issued its decision. Much to the disappointment of Nicole, her legal team, family, and friends, the judges upheld Nicole’s conviction. In a blistering rebuke of the trial court’s sentencing, however, the appellate court held that the trial judge relied on thoroughly outmoded views of the impact of domestic violence and misinterpreted the legislative intent of the DVSJA and the circumstances of the case. Though not overturned as we hoped, Nicole Addimando’s sentence was reduced from 19 years to life to a term of 7 ½ years. We expect Nicole to be released to her family in less than three years. The full decision can be viewed here.

The Silver Lining: A Precedent for New York

As the first DVSJA decision to be issued by a New York appellate court, the Nicole Addimando decision is precedent-setting and should pave the way for more compassionate treatment for survivors throughout the state.

First, after reviewing the record, the court held that “through her lengthy testimony, photographs, and other evidence,” Nicole had shown that her domestic partner had “repeatedly abused her physically and sexually.” Second, the court held that the evidence, “which included a detailed history of repeated sexual, physical, and psychological abuse … expert testimony regarding the impact of that abuse on the defendant, and the defendant’s testimony regarding the events prior to the subject shooting, established that the abuse was a significant contributing factor to the defendant’s criminal behavior.” Third, the court held that in determining a sentence, the trial court “failed to fully take into account the impact of physical, sexual, and/or psychological abuse on the defendant as a domestic violence survivor.” The court concluded that “[t]his approach simply runs afoul of the spirit and intent of the statute. It is unacceptable that, in reflecting the views of a more enlightened society, the Legislature saw fit to enact the DV Survivor’s Act, only to have the court frustrate that legislative intent by applying outdated notions regarding domestic violence issues.”

The court’s decision adopted the arguments made by the Sullivan & Cromwell team in its briefs and Garrard’s oral argument, as well as the arguments in the amicus briefs submitted by Davis Polk and Duane Morris. In sum, the decision in Nicole Addimando’s case, beyond reducing her sentence dramatically, should have a profound impact on how prosecutors and courts apply the DVSJA, and how the criminal justice system views and treats survivors moving forward. While disappointed that her conviction was not reversed, Ms. Addimando has repeatedly mentioned the strength she has gained from obtaining a decision that will help survivors across the state and the country, and the vindication she has obtained from a finding that she was in fact abused and that that the abuse led to the crimes for which she was convicted.

New York Leads the Way

As the country reckons with the ways racism, misogyny, and poverty have fueled mass incarceration and the incarceration of abuse survivors, New York is setting an example that other states will hopefully choose to follow. The passage of the DVSJA and the correct application in Nicole’s case set a high bar for the compassionate treatment of survivors in the criminal justice system.

But our work is far from over. The appellate court’s decision to allow Nicole’s conviction to stand reflects the need for continued education and advocacy on behalf of gender-violence survivors. Nicole and similarly-situated survivors should never be convicted, incarcerated, and separated from their families for the sole crime of defending their own lives. The Initiative, its pro bono partners, and dedicated advocates across New York State intend to continue fighting for justice in every survivor’s case.

Nicole Fidler is the director of Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Program. Ross Kramer is the director of the Incarcerated Gender Violence Survivor Initiative.

An Update on our Services

Learn more about the future of our services in the year ahead.

As New York continues to recover from the pandemic, Sanctuary is preparing for a new era of hybrid service provision — one that will better meet the needs of survivors living across New York’s five boroughs.

When the City went into lockdown in March 2020, we shifted our legal and clinical services and career readiness training to virtual platforms. Our social workers conducted counseling sessions through a telehealth platform, our Economic Empowerment Program shifted training to Zoom, and when the courts resumed hearings our attorneys represented survivors through Skype and Zoom. Of course not all services could be offered virtually. Sanctuary staff kept our five shelters open throughout the pandemic, supporting survivors and ensuring a clean environment for our residents.

Learn more about how we adapted our services here >

The changes we made across our programs revealed new opportunities for our work with adult and child survivors of gender violence. Learn what’s happening in the months ahead and how we plan to integrate our current virtual services with our traditional in-person support.

Office Re-Openings

Manhattan Office – Confidential Location

Our Manhattan Office is open for scheduled appointments Monday through Friday, 9 am – 5 pm, on a case by case basis. Availability for in-person meetings will increase after Labor Day (Monday, September 6th). Please call 212.349.6009 or your Sanctuary point person to schedule an appointment.

Family Justice Centers

While Sanctuary’s shelters and Manhattan Office have remained open throughout the pandemic, New York City’s Family Justice Centers (FJCs) have largely operated virtually. The FJCs have traditionally provided valuable and accessible comprehensive services, particularly to survivors who prefer to drop in rather than make an appointment in advance. The Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence opened the Manhattan FJC last September for limited appointments two days a week. The other FJCs are re-opening on a limited basis as follows:

  • Manhattan FJC – The MFJC ramped up its on-site staffing and appointment capacity in early June. The MFJC is open on Monday and Friday during phase 2 of the reopening plan.
  • Staten Island FJC – The SIFJC opened its doors on Tuesday, June 8th for client appointments only. The SIFJC is open on Tuesday and Thursday during phase 2 of the FJC reopening plan.
  • Queens FJC – The Queens FJC opened its doors on Tuesday, July 6th for appointments only. The QFJC is open on Tuesday and Thursdays during phase 2 of the FJC reopening plan. 
  • Brooklyn FJC- The Brooklyn FJC opened its doors on Wednesday, August 4th for appointments only. The BKFJC will be open on Wednesday and Thursdays during phase 2 of the FJC reopening plan.
  • Bronx FJC – The Bronx FJC will open its doors in August for appointments only on Tuesday and Thursday. The opening date is still to be determined. 

Contact an FJC office here >


The EMPOWER Center remains open for virtual services and scheduled appointments only. To make an appointment, please call 212.238.4906.

Future of our services

Economic Empowerment

Before to the pandemic, Economic Empowerment Program (EEP) participants were expected to attend in-person classes at our confidential Manhattan office daily. Our computer labs, onsite childcare and prepaid MetroCards made this program accessible but for many, the commute added an extra layer of complexity to participants’ busy lives. The program was also especially challenging for those who did not have access to a computer or WiFi at home but wanted extra time to practice the skills they were building. The lock-down led Sanctuary to shift EEP online and provide participants with the necessary technology. Now, with generous support from Mobile Citizen for low-cost internet and long-term funding for laptops in the works, we plan to continue offering EEP as a hybrid of Zoom and in-person classes starting this fall. By providing program participants, and by extension their families, with technology to close the digital divide, greater flexibility, and the community that has always set EEP apart, we believe we can better support survivors on their professional journey.

If you would like to learn more about our Fall 2021 Economic Empowerment Program, please email Info@sffny.org

Legal Representation

New York State courts have reopened with most cases continuing to be heard virtually through Microsoft Teams. The shift to virtual court proceedings has revealed several benefits. Survivors save the time and money they would typically spend on childcare, time off from work, and/or the cost of the commute with the added benefit of not having to see or be near their abusive partner in court. While the future of court proceedings has yet to be determined, we expect virtual hearings to become a permanent option.

Family Court: Already-existing cases are continuing in the borough Family Courts where they started however newly filed cases that require immediate judicial attention can now be filed in a City-wide virtual court.

Immigration Court: Immigration Courts remain open. USCIS interviews and appointments have resumed. Non-detained removal defense cases resumed July 6, 2021.

Order of Protection (Family and Criminal): All Temporary Orders of Protection are continued until the next time the case is back in court.

Pro Bono Support: In April 2021, we launched a web-portal for pro bono attorneys to access sample documents, educational guides and a variety of other materials to help them with pro bono cases. Before the portal, these materials were typically shared on an individual, case-by-case basis by the supervising Sanctuary attorney. The launch of the portal makes it easier for our partners to learn the intricacies of gender violence cases and trauma-informed representation while freeing up time for our attorneys to provide oversight. Active pro bono attorneys can request access here.


Sanctuary counselors will continue to provide counseling sessions to adults, children, and families through a HIPAA compliant telehealth platform with expanded availability for in-person counseling sessions beginning September 6th. As with many of our other services, counselors have found the shift to virtual services enables clients to attend sessions with more regularity because they do not have to worry about the commute or childcare. Virtual therapy, however, comes with several significant challenges including access to adequate technology and privacy, and the difficulty of building trust without the intimacy of in-person interaction. Read the reflections of our Children and Family counselors on virtual counseling here.

Housing and Shelter

Governor Cuomo has extended the moratorium on COVID-related residential and commercial evictions and foreclosure proceedings for those filing a hardship declaration until August 31, 2021. While Sanctuary’s shelters have remained open throughout the pandemic, our staff have continued working with survivors to secure permanent housing and relief through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

Volunteer and In-Kind

Sanctuary is continuing to limit the number of individuals entering our confidential Manhattan Office. Please check back for updates and volunteer opportunities in August. If you would like to support survivors with material or in-kind donations, please browse our Amazon Wish List. The items listed are urgently needed by families visiting our offices and staying in our shelters.