On Tuesday, March 11, 2021, Governor Cuomo signed the COVID-19 Emergency Protect Our Small Businesses Act, which prohibits evictions on commercial non-payment cases if the tenant has fewer than 50 employees and submits a hardship declaration similar to the one currently available to residential tenants under the Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act. What many small businesses do not realize is that this does not prevent the landlord from serving a rent demand or filing a case where the hardship declaration has not yet been received. When a case is filed (usually through the court's e-filing platform nowadays), it is difficult for an unrepresented small business to stay on top of the case, despite the requirement that the landlord serve hard copies of anything filed with the court on a party who has not yet consented to service through the e-filing platform. In many instances, there are defenses that may not be pandemic-related that the business may not be aware of, which is why it is important to have counsel to navigate these matters, especially when the business and perhaps even a guarantor's personal liability is on the line.
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