FAQ: What to Do if I Can't Pay Rent Because of COVID-19

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There is an Eviction Moratorium in New York State.

Courts are closed, landlords cannot sue you and you cannot be evicted for any reason as long as the moratorium lasts.  For more info about how the moratorium works, go here

What if I can’t pay my rent this month? 

You are not alone.  Millions of people can’t pay rent right now. The moratorium buys you time because the landlord can’t sue you or evict you.  It doesn’t mean you won’t be obligated to pay rent later, but you don’t have to worry about court or an eviction right now.

What if I get a rent demand letter from my landlord? 

Unfortunately, the moratorium doesn’t mean that landlords can’t ask you for rent, or tell you they think you’re late. Landlords often send threatening rent demands that seem like court papers, telling you you have 14 days to pay or leave the apartment.  Those are not court papersA notice from your landlord isn’t an eviction, it’s a threat.  Only a judge can evict you.  Remember, because of the moratorium, you cannot be taken to court or evicted during this time.  In the meantime, know your rights about evictions and start organizing! 

What’s going to happen when courts reopen? 

It really depends on the power we build in the next three months. The COVID-19 crisis has reawakened the political imagination of millions of people: a world without rent hikes, evictions, and unsafe living conditions IS possible and something we ALL deserve. We now have to mobilize and activate everyone struggling with housing security right now. Tenants across the country are already organizing their buildings and deepening solidarity across class and race to protect each other during this crisis. If thousands or even millions of people come together right now, the recovery from COVID-19 will look very different than if tenants face eviction alone. We are organizing for the courts to be closed for as long as possible. If we don’t win, the courts will resume business as usual though we expect cases to move more slowly. The best option we all have is to organize.  

What if I get a 30/60/90 day notice of non-renewal? 

As part of our campaign to #CancelRent we are calling for every tenant to have the right to renew their lease at the rent that they currently pay. However, we have not won yet. If you live in housing that is unregulated your landlord could choose not to renew your lease when it expires. Depending on how long you have lived in your apartment, your landlord has to give you 30, 60, or 90 days notice of non-renewal. If you are an unregulated tenant, the current eviction moratorium doesn’t prevent your landlord from choosing not to renew your lease. However, if your landlord does not offer you a renewal lease but you do not want to leave your home, they will have to sue you in court to force you to leave. As long as the courts are closed, that cannot happen and no evictions can happen until the moratorium is lifted. 

I don’t know when I’ll be able to pay my rent. 

You are not alone! The eviction moratorium is the first step during this crisis, but we need to prepare for when we emerge. We’re fighting to #CancelRent, so that whatever rent is accumulated during this crisis is never collectible by your landlord. Not right now, and not after the crisis either.  This is a political problem, and it needs a political solution. 

Here are four easy things that you can do right now, from home, to support our campaign to #CancelRent. 

  1. Sign our petition to the Governor.Governor Cuomo has all the power in New York State right now. He has already taken action to waive mortgage payments for homeowners. Sign our petition to make sure he takes action to waive rents for renters and immediately rehouse 92,000 homeless New Yorkers.

  2. Call Governor Cuomo and demand that he #CancelRent. Here’s all the info you need to make the call!

  3. Share that you took action with us on Social Media. Post our petition using any of the sample tweets and graphics in this social media toolkit. Tag 10 friends or organizations and ask them to do the same.

  4. Go to www.housingjusticeforall.org/storymap and share your COVID-19 housing story with us. While COVID-19 is stopping us from mobilizing 1000s of people in the streets, it’s not stopping our fight for housing justice. By sharing our stories, we are raising our collective voices to demand that Governor Cuomo listen to renters. We’re putting a human face on the crisis and reminding each other that even while we are socially distancing, we are not alone! 

How do I organize my building? How do I go on a rent strike?

 Check out our toolkit on best practices for organizing your building during COVID-19. You can also text “Rent Strike” to 646-542-1920.

For more information, visit www.housingjusticeforall.org, www.righttocounselnyc.org or call 212-979-0611 (Mon 1:30-8pm, Tue 5:30-8, Wed 1:30-8, & Fri 1:30-8).