Less than two hours after President Trump declared a national emergency over the coronavirus Friday, a coalition of property owners in New York City announced that they would halt evictions in most circumstances.
The announcement came on the heels of several others that are similarly designed to give relief to renters amid a nationwide health crisis.
In New York’s case, the pledge to stop evictions came from property owners that operate more than 150,000 rental units, as well as from the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY). The coalition published an open letter Friday saying the ultimate impacts of the coronavirus remain unknown, but “in crises, New Yorkers pull together. Now is a time for everyone to do their share.”
The letter went on to explain that most evictions would be stopped for 90 days.
“Starting immediately, we are voluntarily pledging that we will not execute any warrant of eviction for the next 90 days unless it is for criminal or negligent behavior that jeopardizes the life, health or safety of other residents,” the letter explains. “With all the stress, health risk and economic suffering going on now, no one should have to worry about losing their place to live during this crisis.”
Landlords who signed the letter include A&E Real Estate, Brookfield Property Group, The Douglaston Companies, The Durst Organization, Rudin Management Company, Lalezarian Properties and many others.
The announcement from the New York landlords also came just hours after Ben Caballero — who has repeatedly been ranked the top real estate agent in the U.S. — tweeted that at his rentals he too would “suspend all late fees and evictions for those afflicted until further notice.”
To assist our tenants whose households are afflicted with coronavirus and to help reduce its spread, I have directed my property mgmt company, Caballero Holdings, to suspend all late fees & evictions for those afflicted until further notice. Tenants: Email or call us for details.
— Ben Caballero (@bcaballero) March 13, 2020
On Thursday, the Miami Dade Police Department also announced that it would halt all evictions. The Baltimore sheriff’s office made a similar announcement that same evening.
The moves by landlords and law enforcement come amid growing calls for tenant protections as the coronavirus crisis worsens. Among other leaders, Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders proposed a national halt to evictions Thursday. The same day, two dozen members of the New York State Senate called for a similar halt in their state. Lawmakers in Los Angeles have also called for a halt to evictions.
On Friday afternoon, President Trump declared a national emergency over the coronavirus during a news conference at the White House.
President @realDonaldTrump is officially declaring a National Emergency and ordering every state to set up emergency operations centers, effective immediately. pic.twitter.com/dkdaJVsOVk
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) March 13, 2020
The coronavirus ultimately has the potential to significantly disrupt rental markets. Health officials and lawmakers have focused their efforts to combat the illness on voluntary quarantining and “social distancing.” As result scores of events have been cancelled, people have abandoned travel plans and millions of Americans are hunkering down in their homes.
The result may slow the spread of the virus, but it also likely means that people working as independent contractors, in the service or travel industries, and in many other jobs will see their incomes drop — potentially hurting their ability to pay rent.
However, at least in New York landlords have decided to call for unity.
“With New York at risk,” the landlords wrote in their letter, “we must come together and protect our residents. We can’t shake hands or hug each other right now. But we must all turn toward each other and help each other. Together, we will survive this crisis — and so will this wonderful city we all love.”