Bill Would Require Attempt At Settling Any Commercial Evictions

Legislation has been introduced in both houses of the state Legislature to require settlement conferences in any commercial eviction that has begun during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, D-Queens, and Sen. Brian Benjamin, D-New York City, have introduced the Protect Main Street Act in their respective houses to provide a settlement conference so that the commercial tenant and the landlord are provided an opportunity to explore settlement options and avoid the necessity of litigation. Cruz and Benjamin say such conferences are necessary to encourage good faith negotiation to protect the leasehold interest of the tenant, maintain the character of neighborhoods and avoid empty storefronts.

The law would expire one year after taking effect if it is passed.

“Our local small businesses are essential to maintaining a vibrant and diverse community,” Cruz and Benjamin said in their legislative memorandum. “COVID-19 has, brought great strain upon small business, forcing many to either temporarily shut down or scale back their operations. When the New York Court system announced that settlement conferences are a required pre-requisite to residential evictions as a consequence of foreclosure, they did not address the need to help rebuild small businesses, protect the character of our communities, and prevent the spread of vacant neighborhood storefronts. Moreover, settlement conferences are likely to be more productive in the commercial context where the parties are generally represented by counsel and can more readily communicate via phone or video conference.”

In an executive order issued Dec. 11, Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended New York’s ban on commercial evictions and foreclosures through Jan. 31, 2021. Cuomo has repeatedly extended the ban, but cannot do so for more than a month at a time. As part of his State of the State address, Cuomo said he will will advance legislation to codify an existing Executive Order to extend a statewide moratorium on commercial evictions until May 1 for tenants who have endured COVID-related hardship. Landlords can evict tenants who are creating safety or health hazards.


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