Before joining Moss and Tapia, I knew very little about landlord-tenant law, or even real estate law for that matter. Since beginning work in November I have learned quite a bit, but I know that I am still learning. However, as someone who recently moved to NYC and went through the application process to rent an apartment, I do have some firsthand experience on this aspect of how COVID protections have changed the landlord-tenant relationship.
First, landlords are hesitant to rent to tenants. Sure, providing proof of income has always been a part of the rental application process but now landlords are checking to ensure that you earn, at a minimum, 40 times your monthly rental payment. Even if you do make 40 times your monthly rental payment, you still may be asked to have a guarantor on your application.
While it was a hassle and a very slow process for me to apply and subsequentially get approved for an apartment in NYC, I understand why landlords are hesitant to rent. With tenant protections still in place, there is little a landlord can do to either evict a non-paying tenant or get a judgement for the back owed rent. Even though the pandemic greatly reduced many people's incomes, the concern that I have is when are these protections no longer needed? The government mandated shutdown in early 2020 was a time that these protections were needed. With millions of people out of work due to mandatory closings, unemployment numbers were skyrocketing. Eviction protections during this time made the most sense; it's hard to pay your rent without an income, and it's hard to work when the government has forced your job to close to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Earlier in the month I would have ended this post by advocating for the end of the eviction moratorium and other COVID era tenant protections. While I do think the economy is opening more and more every day, I have no idea what the new Omicron variant of the virus could do. Will we see another lockdown like we did in early 2020? Regardless of what happens or when the protections end, these protections have likely forever shaped how renting property in NYC will be handled. Landlords will be hesitant to rent, and it will become increasingly more difficult to financially qualify for an apartment. Additionally, I believe that finding and creating affordable housing will become increasingly difficult as landlords seek to recoup their costs and lost revenues from the pandemic assistance era.