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Eviction Warrants Likely To Rise Locally

Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office P-J file photo

Sheriff’s deputies who handle evictions in Chautauqua County may see more work in the coming months following the expiration of New York state’s moratorium that provided some protection to tenants and homeowners during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lt. Tom Delcamp in the civil division of the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office said eight evictions were brought to his office last week. He said that number will likely grow once more cases make their way through local courts, but just how many is hard to say.

“I think over the next few months we will see an increase in evictions,” Delcamp said.

Landlords in New York serve tenants they wish to evict for a variety of reasons including non-payment through a “notice of petition & petition” and go before a local magistrate judge.

In Chautauqua County, sheriff’s deputies will serve a “warrant of eviction” on tenants after the judge rules in favor of the landlord. Tenants are then given 14 days to move.

“The person has 14 days from when it’s served, and we will follow up to see if they’ve moved,” Delcamp said.

On Jan. 15, the state ended its two-year moratorium aimed at keeping tenants and homeowners from losing their homes during the coronavirus pandemic. The Associated Press reported that advocates and landlords don’t expect a flood of evictions right away, as the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program still provides some eviction protection.

New York previously allowed tenants to file court papers saying they had a financial hardship because of the pandemic, and to use that hardship as a defense in eviction proceedings. It was up to landlords to prove a tenant didn’t have a financial hardship.

Not all evictions were halted statewide due to the moratorium. Delcamp noted that landlords were able to bring petitions against tenants who damaged property or became a safety hazard; however, petitions were only entertained by local judges after courts reopened to in-person appearances, he said.

Of the eight evictions received by the Sheriff’s Office, two came from Jamestown and Dunkirk while the others came from town courts.

Delcamp said it will likely take time for eviction cases to be scheduled and heard before a judge. He expects more evictions to be handled by the Sheriff’s Office in February and March.

In related news, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand this week joined others in Congress calling on President Joe Biden’s administration to reallocate funding from the Emergency Rental Assistance Program to assist low-income renters. In a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the group requested that unspent ERA funds be distributed “as quickly as possible” to communities in need.

“New York’s housing costs are some of the highest in the nation,” Gillibrand said. “After the end of the state’s eviction moratorium, too many New Yorkers are at risk of falling behind on their rent and losing their homes. Particularly as we continue to battle the Omicron variant, housing insecurity poses a serious threat to the health and well-being of our communities. I urge the Biden administration to immediately redirect unspent rental assistance funds to where they are needed most.”

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