COVID-19 Update: Court Closures
As you know, on Sunday the Governor called for all business to voluntarily shift to remote working, and also indicated that the State would be modifying certain operations.
Consistent with that statement, the Chief Administrative Judge for the Unified Court System of the State of New York has issued a directive with respect to the suspension of all non-essential court functions effective March 16, 5pm. What does that mean for you?
1. Any pending criminal or civil trials will continue to conclusion, but no new trials will commence in any court.
2. In New York City, the courthouses will remain open for essential functions. The Supreme Court will handle emergency matters, such as Mental Hygiene Law applications, civil commitments and guardianships.
3. The Housing Court will remain open for essential applications only, such as lockouts and emergency housing code violations or repair orders. We are advised that there will be one Housing Part open in each borough. After March 16, we are being advised by the Court that we likely will be unable to commence new proceedings (other than an emergency) or to file affidavits of service, but in all events, we are strongly discouraged from doing so in order to be consistent with the Court’s efforts to minimize traffic in the courthouses. As such, other than in the event of an emergency, we believe that we should abide by the Court’s guidance and not commence new proceedings or serve petitions, other than in an emergency. As a practical matter, in that the Courts are closed indefinitely, there is little to gain by bringing cases now since they will not be heard under any circumstances. In addition, we do not know whether there will be clerks available to accept affidavits of service. If there are not, services would not be effective. If, notwithstanding this, you have a proceeding that you would like to discuss, please call us. We do recommend that any notices of non-renewal, whether the statutorily mandated notice to market tenants, or a “Golub” notice, be served at this time. We do not know whether those deadlines will ultimately be extended and the failure to timely serve a Golub notice now may cause you a two year delay. With respect to notices to market tenants, it is possible that you may be required to re-serve them when the pandemic is over, but if they are not served now, you will have no possibility of recovering your apartments upon lease expiration.
4. All evictions are suspended indefinitely. No new warrants may be issued based on a tenant’s default or failure to appear, but to the extent there is personnel available, warrants can be issued if a stipulation has been filed or a decision has been rendered. Our Marshal has advised that he does not believe that he is barred from serving eviction notices, but recommends against it both because he does not know how long the suspension will last, and the notice will likely go stale, and because the tenant may, upon receipt, notify the Court or the New York City Department of Investigation that you are violating the moratorium on evictions.
5. DHCR is closed for two weeks as of March 16 and is preparing a notice to address filing deadlines during its closure. However, we are advised that it may take DHCR up to a week to issue formal guidance and they cannot guarantee us that any policies will be implemented retroactively. As such, if you have a current filing deadline at DHCR, such as a deadline to file a Petition for Administrative Review, our recommendation is that you timely file by some means that will allow you to prove the timeliness of your service and filing. Federal Express, or another nationally recognized overnight courier which can provide proof of delivery is acceptable, and US Postal service certified mailing is acceptable if you go to the post office to have a postal employee stamp your receipt. A postage meter stamp will not be sufficient proof of timely service.
6. The Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings has advised that it will grant all applications for adjournments, but the parties must request such adjournment either online, or by calling. The link to the OATH website is https://www1.nyc.gov/site/oath/hearings/fight-a-summons.page.
7. The Executive Director of the New York City Loft Board has advised that she is reviewing Loft Board protocols during this period, but no official guidance is yet available. As such, until there is notice, you are best advised to adhere to any current deadlines.
We know that this is a challenging time for all of us, and that this may not be the last disruption of our businesses and daily life. We want to assure you that we are open for business and will remain so, whether physically or virtually, and your attorneys at Rosenberg & Estis, P.C. are available to answer your questions and assist in any way during this pandemic, as we have been previously. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if we may be of assistance in any way. We will, of course, continue to update you as the situation evolves or we receive additional information.
Rosenberg & Estis, P.C.