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A Mid-June Review of Real Estate Issues and Their Impact on the Real Estate Industry

John A. Viteritti

An issue that has also gained much attention among the real estate industry is Governor Andrew Cuomo's executive order and adopted by the State Legislature extending a moratorium on evictions to August 20, 2020. (Photo: Nicole Barylski)

The subject of this article is to update some of the issues that have affected the real estate industry since the beginning of the year, among them, fair housing, the tenant protection act, and the impact of COVID-19.

With respect to COVID-19, on the day of the writing of this article, Long Island has moved into Phase 2. The New York State Association of Realtors (NYSAR) has posted on its website a summary of the guidelines for real estate activity as issued by Empire State Development and the Department of Health. It includes mandatory and recommended best practices guidance with respect to in-person contact with consumers, interaction with consumers, in-person showings, and open houses.

With regard to fair housing and advertising guidelines, on May14, 2020 the New York Department of State (DOS) sent a notice to all licensees informing them of new fair housing regulations going into effect on June 20, 2020 and advertising regulations on November 2, 2020. Guidance documents are posted on the DOS website.

A pending issue of concern to real estate agents is over the DOS published guidelines prohibiting a broker representing a landlord to collect a commission from the tenant. The Real Estate Board of New York (RBNY) and NYSAR commenced an Article 78 proceeding in Albany Supreme Court challenging the DOS action. The matter has been postponed to September 11, 2020.

An issue that has also gained much attention among the real estate industry is Governor Andrew Cuomo's executive order and adopted by the State Legislature extending a moratorium on evictions to August 20, 2020. On June 1, 2020 Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. issued a press release stating in part: "I supported legislation to provide rent relief, mortgage relief, property tax relief, and utility shut-off protection. However, I could not support legislation relating to evictions. While I support eviction protection for residents impacted by COVID-19 or their primary residences, the legislation before the Legislature was too broad." On May 27, 2020 a lawsuit, Elmsford Apartment Associates, LLC v. Cuomo was filed in the U.S. District for the Southern District of New York challenging the constitutionality of the law.

I asked Assemblyman Thiele for his comments on the case and this is what he said: "My complaint about the executive orders and legislation relating to evictions is just that they are overbroad and vague. They could be interpreted as applying to seasonal rentals, which is far beyond the state intention of the orders, which is to permit people to stay in their primary home during the pandemic. Immunity from eviction from a vacation home is far afield from that." He added: "This lawsuit seeks to challenge the executive orders on constitutional grounds relating to taking of property and impairment of contracts. I think any challenge of executive authority during an emergency on these grounds faces a heavy burden."

Not to be lost in all of the complexity of these issues is the fact that Suffolk County has extended the deadline for tax payments not included in a mortgage payment from May 31, 2020 to June 22, 2020, June 21st being a Sunday.

For more information, visit governor.ny.gov or dos.ny.gov.

John is a St. John's University graduate, licensed Real Estate Broker, DOS Certified Instructor, and real estate consultant. He previously taught at NYU, LIU, and The Cook Maran Real Estate School, which he helped found. www.johnaviteritti.com

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