Information for BRI Members About the Novel Coronavirus and COVID-19 Outbreak
Last Updated: April 15, 2021
Although Westchester County had the first recorded case of COVID-19 on March 1, the pandemic has become a statewide, national, and international crisis. Despite the success of measures like ramped-up testing and social distancing to curb the number of transmissions, number of hospitalizations, and the number of deaths, it is likely we will be living with the public health consequences and reimagining the way we conduct business in Westchester and the mid-Hudson Valley for at least months and, more likely, years.
The BRI will regularly update this page with links to the best practical information available on reasonable and effective precautions to keep those who live and work within your building or office safe. If you have a specific question or suggestion not listed below, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 914-273-0730.
Send me an email when this page has been updated!
Frequently Asked Questions – Emergency Rental Assistance Program
What is the Covid-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program of 2021?
The Covid-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program of 2021 (CERAP) is a dedicated fund for the payments of rental arrears owed by eligible tenants who did not make rental payments during the pandemic.
Rent is not cancelled. Rent is being paid through a nearly $2.4 Billion fund for New York State from the Federal government by way of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Other federal funds may be made available for this purpose. It is important that eligible tenants and property owners participate in the program.
How will the fund work?
The fund will cover up to 12 months of rental arrears plus up to 3 months prospective rent. However, prospective rent payments are only available to “rent burdened households,” defined as households that pay 30% or more of their gross monthly income in rent. Payments are made directly to owners.
The fund will be administered by the New York State Office of Temporary Disability Assistance (OTDA). OTDA is charged with creating the application form and portal for application intake, review, and approval or denial. The program, rules, application and review process have not been established yet.
CERAP provides a framework. OTDA will establish an application process by telephone or online and will coordinate with non-profit organizations or local government staff to provide additional application support. OTDA will provide tracking information for both tenants and owners on its website for any application received/submitted. Self-attestation by tenants will be permitted to the extent allowable by federal law.
Who can apply?
Tenants and owners can apply together, and a tenant can apply on their own. Owners can initiate the application process on behalf of a tenant, as can a community organization familiar with the tenant’s circumstances. The tenant must be a primary resident of New York State, and meet the income requirements set forth in statute. A tenant may make up to 80% of Area Median Income, demonstrate a risk of homelessness or housing instability, and have qualified for unemployment, reduced income, or have incurred financial hardship due to Covid-19. Income will be determined either by calendar year of 2020 or the monthly income at the time of application.
Immigration status is not a barrier to eligibility. Full-time college students who are listed as dependents are not eligible.
Once applications are available from OTDA, for the first 30 days, up to 65% of the funds will be available for NYC and at least 35% will be made available to localities outside NYC. Also during those first 30 days, the funds will be allocated first to priority tenants, as defined in the statute. After 30 days, money will be allocated on a rolling basis.
What is a priority tenant?
The federal statute states that the highest priority shall be given to households earning up to 50% AMI or have one or more individuals who are unemployed as of the date of application and have been unemployed for at least 90 days prior.
The New York State statute added additional priority groups as follows:
· Mobile Home tenants; or
· Households with at least one individual from a “vulnerable population”, i.e. domestic violence or human trafficking victim or veteran; or
· Households with a pending eviction; or
· Households from communities disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 as established by OTDA regulations; or
· Households where owner is a “small landlord”, i.e. a person or entity who owns 20 or fewer units.
What do property owners need to provide to OTDA to receive relief?
Property owners must provide OTDA with the necessary information for timely contact and payment. There is an obligation to keep all tenant information provided for the purposes of applying jointly for relief confidential. Property owners should maintain records to show the application of any monies received to rent arrears only for the time period indicated. OTDA will issue further guidance in this area.
What do tenants need to provide to receive relief?
OTDA shall establish procedures for determining eligibility and what information should be provided by households applying for assistance. The New York State statute says that such procedures should ensure flexibility when determining acceptable documentation and will allow for self-attestation. OTDA has not yet promulgated these rules.
What are the property owner’s obligations in accepting funds from the program?
First, a property owner has obligations while the application is under review:
· the owner cannot bring an eviction proceeding based upon the expiration of the lease or the nonpayment of rent until the application for benefits has been determined and
· if proceedings have been started, the proceedings cannot be continued until the application for benefits has been determined.
When the owner accepts payment for rent under the program, then:
· the arrears covered by the payment cannot be sued for via a nonpayment.
· no late fees may be charged for that payment, and
· there may be no rent increase for a year.
Eviction protections are in place to ensure that an eligible tenant is not removed for nonpayment for the covered months when that obligation can be satisfied by the program. Additionally, no eviction for lease expiration or holdover tenancy is permitted for a year after payment is received, unless the building is 4 or less units, then owner or immediate family can occupy as defined in the statute. It is not believed that this eviction protection bars an owner from bringing legal proceedings based upon a tenant’s violation of lease / tenancy, or creation of a nuisance. Legislators have been public about their intent to only prohibit holdover proceedings based on lease expiration. OTDA may further clarify this provision and/or courts could interpret as written more broadly.
The owner must notify tenant of these protections. OTDA has not yet indicated what form this notice must take.
There are differences of opinion as to what an owner’s obligation is to accept rent from a tenant that applies on their own without participation from the owner. The court may demand such if proof of program acceptance is presented in court. Additionally, the source of income statute could requires an owner to accept rent that a tenant applies for and receives – it could also be read as protecting that tenant from discrimination for prospective renewals and initial leases.
What are the tenant’s obligations in accepting funds from the program?
All other obligations under the lease remain, including paying rent on an ongoing basis moving forward.
A tenant has the right to submit proof of receipt of payment of benefits in a legal proceeding, creating a presumption that the rent or utility has been paid for the payment period. Then the burden rests on the property owner to prove that payment was not made.
What else should I know?
Only OTDA can establish and administer the program. It is critically important that the program and education about those rules and process launch as soon as possible.
A number of provisions require further clarification from OTDA. For example, the statute states that residents of public housing and tenants of other federal and state subsidized housing where rent is limited to a percentage of income are eligible only if funds remain after all others are served. This appears to imply that tenants in affordable housing without rental assistance are excluded, when the intent was to not exclude. Additionally, there is an authorization for $100 million in supplemental state funding but program parameters for that fund have not been set.
Preventing the spread of novel Coronavirus and COVID-19
Public health experts and government at all levels have issued identical recommendations on how to prevent the spread of coronavirus and COVID-19. These precautions are similar to steps for avoiding the flu, including:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
- Cough or sneeze into your sleeve or a tissue (not your hands), then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a cleaning product that contains bleach.
- Stay home when you are sick.
Per the Governor’s Executive Order, New Yorkers are encouraged to wear face coverings (cloth or otherwise) when in public or when likely to interact with the public in settings if they cannot maintain a social distance of 6 feet from other people.
Employers should inform and remind employees of these precautions, and encourage them to stay home and take a sick day if they are feeling unwell or have respiratory illness symptoms, even if they have no reason to believe it is related to COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published these helpful reminder graphics that can be shared with residents and employees alike.
Westchester County has also made posters available for posting in the common areas of multi-family dwellings.
What about emergency “social distancing”?
The CDC has issued recommendations for practicing “social distancing” to prevent the exponential increase in transmission of the virus have dramatically increased. Primarily, these involve keeping a distance of at least 6 feet from other persons at all times to the greatest extent possible. Though the number of hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19 are still high, all available evidence suggests that social distancing measures over the past month, including “stay at home” orders for all but essential workers, has decreased the rate of transmission of the disease such that it will not push hospitals and other healthcare centers in the Greater New York Area past the breaking point.
Governor Cuomo announced a 10-point “New York State on PAUSE” order which continues to be in effect.
- Effective at 8PM on Sunday, March 22, all non-essential businesses statewide will be closed;
- Non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason (e.g. parties, celebrations or other social events) are canceled or postponed at this time;
- Any concentration of individuals outside their home must be limited to workers providing essential services and social distancing should be practiced;
- When in public individuals must practice social distancing of at least six feet from others;
- Businesses and entities that provide other essential services must implement rules that help facilitate social distancing of at least six feet;
- Individuals should limit outdoor recreational activities to non-contact and avoid activities where they come in close contact with other people;
- Individuals should limit use of public transportation to when absolutely necessary and should limit potential exposure by spacing out at least six feet from other riders;
- Sick individuals should not leave their home unless to receive medical care and only after a telehealth visit to determine if leaving the home is in the best interest of their health;
- Young people should also practice social distancing and avoid contact with vulnerable populations; and
- Use precautionary sanitizer practices such as using isopropyl alcohol wipes.
What has the Governor ordered for businesses in regards to emergency “social distancing”? What are the Phases for re-opening?
The Governor has issued multiple emergency Executive Orders requiring that non-essential businesses keep 100% of their workforce home beginning Sunday, March 22 at 8:00 pm.
The order requires that “All businesses and not-for-profit entities in the state shall utilize, to the maximum extent possible, any telecommuting or work from home procedures that they can safely utilize.”
There are a number of exceptions listed by Empire State Development for “Any essential business or entity providing essential services or functions,” including specifically the following:
- “vendors of essential services necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operations of residences or other essential businesses;”
- “vendors that provide essential services or products, including logistics and technology support, child care and services needed to ensure the continuing operation of government agencies and provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public”
The Governor has put forward a comprehensive plan for reopening, called “New York Forward,” and has created a separate website for it at: https://forward.ny.gov/
A phased reopening of businesses began in some regions in May 15. Westchester County is considered part of the Mid-Hudson Region and received the green light to begin re-opening on May 26. Each region becomes eligible for each phase of reopening based on a number of health metrics. New York State has an online dashboard to monitor the metrics in each region necessary for reopening.
Phase One included construction, manufacturing, and retail.
Phase Two includes “professional services” and office-based jobs, including those related to real estate. Residential services, including multifamily building workers and related jobs like managing agents, have always been considered essential and never closed. Westchester became eligible to begin Phase Two on June 9.
Phase Three primarily focused on personal care businesses and services, and expanded dining options. Westchester became eligible to begin Phase Three on June 23.
Phase Four includes higher education institutions, low-risk arts & entertainment business, and media production. If the health metrics continue to indicate a manageable level of risk, Westchester will become eligible to begin Phase Three on July 7.
Please note that even if your business is exempt from the work from home requirement, the state order still requires you to enact social distancing measures to the greatest extent possible — specifically to allow for all persons in public to remain at least six feet from others. The state order also requires office-based businesses not to exceed 50% capacity in the office.
What should be done for construction workers to keep them safe at a job site?
The Governor’s office has provided guidance for construction businesses as they plan their re-opening:
- Summary guidelines for the safe operation of construction sites, including social distancing. They break these guidelines down into “mandatory” safety protocols and “recommended” best practices.
- Detailed guidelines including a form for construction businesses to sign and submit to the state affirming they have read and will adhere to these safety guidelines.
- A business safety plan template which may in the future be required to be presented to the state Department of Health once the business or the construction site is opened.
National Association of Home Builders has put together a detailed safety plan to prevent worker exposure to coronavirus, protective measures to be taken on the jobsite, personal protective equipment and work practice controls to be used, cleaning and disinfecting procedures, and what to do if a worker becomes sick. New York is one of only 4 states that has discontinued all but essential construction, so
The New York State Builders Association (NYSBA) has also provided its members and the Governor’s task force on reopening a thorough COVID-19 Exposure Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Plan for Construction specific to New York State which largely follows along the same lines.
Finally, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also has a webpage which provides guidance for construction employers and workers, such as those engaged in carpentry, ironworking, plumbing, electrical, heating/ ventilation/air conditioning/ventilation, masonry and concrete work, utility construction work, and earthmoving activities. This guidance supplements the general, interim guidance for all workers and employers of workers with potential occupational exposures to SARS-CoV-2.
What else should home builders and remodelers take into account when planning for construction in new or existing homes?
BRI and its partners have produced the following two resources which may be used as templates if they suit your company’s purposes. These are being shared as suggested language — we encourage you to check with your own counsel to determine if they’re appropriate for your job.
- The New York State Builders Alliance and BACI (Building and Allied Construction Industries of Westchester) have produced a sample sign that can be posted around a residential construction site to warn against unauthorized entry and to keep the site secure.
- Finger and Finger, BRI’s counsel, has produced a sample agreement between a contractor/remodeler and a homeowner when work will take place at a single family residence during this public health emergency. Please check with your own legal counsel as to whether this would be an appropriate agreement for you to use on a particular job.
What should be done for other workers to keep them safe within an office?
The Governor’s Executive Orders to enforce social distancing and to close non-essential businesses since March includes the requirement that “Each business and industry must have a plan to protect employees and consumers, make the physical work space safer and implement processes that lower risk of infection in the business.”
Suggested safety plans and protocols are available on the “New York Forward” website: https://forward.ny.gov/. These include New York-specific requirements, including that offices that re-open as part of Phase Two should not exceed 50% capacity.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a comprehensive set of resources and considerations for office managers and principals on the steps they ought to take to create a safe and healthy workplace and protect workers and clients.
How should I deal with employees who travel to states on New York's travel advisory mandatory quarantine list?
As has been reported in the news, the Governor has put mandatory quarantine provisions into place for travelers to New York from states with a high rate of coronavirus infection. This applies both to New Yorkers and traveling to New York from those states. That list continues to be in flux and currently stands at 31 states. You can see the updated list at: https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-19-travel-advisory
This mandatory 14-day quarantine potentially creates issues for employers whose employees may be traveling to one of those states for an extended period of time. Here is our overview of the issues that you ought to consider in such scenarios.
If an employee goes to one of the states on the list and remained there for more than 24 hours, he or she must quarantine for 14 days starting from the day he or she arrives back in New York. The state defines this as “The individual must not be in public or otherwise leave the quarters that they have identified as suitable.” (Link: https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-19-travel-advisory)
If you have employees going on vacation, you may ask where they are going. If they are intentionally traveling to one of the states on the quarantine list, you may tell them they will not be paid for any quarantine time upon their return and may even endanger their employment by traveling to those states. In addition, employees who are required to quarantine will not be eligible for unemployment benefits for that time.
Because the travel advisory continues to change, an employee could travel to a state that was not on the advisory at the time of their arrival but is subsequently added to the list before they depart it. Those cases may warrant further consideration, including potentially the use of paid time off for the days the employee must remain in quarantine.
Please note that the advisory has different requirements for those deemed “essential workers,” which applies to many of the workers within residential buildings. A complete list of who is currently considered an essential worker by Empire State Development is available here: https://esd.ny.gov/guidance-executive-order-2026
The state provides a limited exception for Essential Workers with its on requirements, including:
- Essential workers should seek diagnostic testing for COVID-19 as soon as possible upon arrival (within 24 hours) to ensure they are not positive.
- Essential workers should monitor temperature and signs of symptoms, wear a face covering when in public, maintain social distancing, clean and disinfect workspaces for a minimum of 14 days.
- Essential workers, to the extent possible, are required to avoid extended periods in public, contact with strangers, and large congregate settings for a period of, at least, 14 days.
You can read all the recommendations under the “Exemptions for Essential Workers” section on https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-19-travel-advisory
Although it is not required, BRI strongly recommends that you err on the side of safety. At a minimum, this would mean requiring the test within 24 hours, not allowing the worker to return to the job site unless he or she tests negative, and considering restructuring duties, to the greatest extent possible, to minimize contact with residents, other workers, and the general public. You may also wish to ask the employee to quarantine, even with the Essential Worker exception, based on the circumstance. Of course, any individual who believes they came into contact with a person who is positive for COVID-19 must quarantine for 14 days, regardless of circumstance, including whether or not they traveled.
If you have questions, please let us know or call the state’s hotline: 1-888-364-3065.
What does OSHA require in terms of record-keeping and job-related cases of COVID-19?
- It is a confirmed case of the virus (a positive test),
- It is “work-related” in that an event or exposure in the work environment either contributed to or caused an employee to contract the virus, and
- It results in death, days away from work, restricted work or transfer, or medical treatment beyond first aid.
What do I need to take into account when opening the pool in my building?
Extensive guidance has been provided at the federal, state, and county level on how to safely operate indoor or outdoor pools, including those located within multifamily residential buildings. We strongly recommend any building planning to re-open their pool area should:
1.) Review and incorporate into your operating procedures the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — “Considerations for Public Pools, Hot Tubs, and Water Playgrounds During COVID-19” The CDC guidance states that “Proper operation, maintenance, and disinfection (e.g., with chlorine and bromine) of pools and hot tubs should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.”
2.) Review and incorporate into your operating procedures the guidance from the New York State Department of Health — “Interim Guidance for Pools and Recreational Aquatic Spray Grounds During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.” Please keep in mind that a heavy emphasis is placed on adhering to the state’s social distancing requirements. Capacity should be greatly reduced and strictly enforced, participants should remain a minimum of 6 feet apart at all times, masks or face coverings should be worn when individuals are in public and social distancing cannot be maintained, and proper cleaning and disinfection protocols should be observed.
3.) Completely fill out the New York Forward Safety Plan Template and make sure you clearly describe how you are going to comply with the COVID-19 Guidance. The completed safety plan does not need to be submitted to the state for approval, but a copy must be sent to the Westchester County Department of Health prior to the County issuing your operational permit. It must clearly describe how you are going to maintain social distancing and sanitation at your facility. A copy of your plan must be retained on the premises and must be available to the New York State DOH, Westchester County Department of Health, and any and all local health or safety authorities in the event of an inspection or complaint.
4.) Apply for your operational permit from Westchester County Department of Health. Again, you must include in your application your completed New York Forward Safety Plan Template and affirm that you have read all the required documents and that you will comply with all of New York State’s guidance. You will need to email all materials to email@example.com, including the completed safety plan.
5.) Consider how your building’s insurance policy will or will not cover you in the event of a suspected COVID-19 transmission. Our partners at Levitt-Fuirst have prepared a brief overview, titled “COVID-19 and Insurance Claims Related To Pool Openings at Condominiums, Cooperatives, and Homeowners Associations.”
Please be safe and cautious in proceeding. If you do not think you have adequate resources to operate your pool safely in these vastly different circumstances, BRI urges you to err on the side of safety for your residents, employees, and visitors.
What is the timeline and the requirements for gyms and fitness centers to re-open in New York?
On August 17, Governor Cuomo announced the timeline, guidance, and requirements for gyms and fitness centers to re-open. BRI has confirmed that these apply to private business gyms and fitness centers, those within hotels, and those operated within a residential building as an amenity.
Below are the highlights — full guidance may be found online.
Those who are in compliance with the state’s guidance may begin opening on August 24.
Local health departments are required to inspect before or within two weeks of the gym/fitness center opening to ensure compliance.
Gyms and fitness centers are required to have one or more staff present while the facility is in use to ensure compliance with occupancy, access, PPE, cleaning and disinfection, and all other requirements. Giving residents 24-hour access without an attendant or other staff present will not be considered in compliance.
Occupancy must be limited to 33% capacity.
Those using the facility must sign-in with contact information and have gone through a health screening.
Appropriate face coverings are required at all times.
6 feet of separation between occupants must be maintained at all times.
Hygiene/Cleaning: Cleaning and disinfection supplies made available to customers; shared equipment cleaned after every use; staff must also be available to clean and disinfect equipment in between uses; rental equipment must be cleaned and disinfected between customer use.
Water bottle refill stations permitted, but not shared water fountains; communal showers are closed, but individual showers/stalls can remain open so long as they are cleaned in between use.
Air Handling Systems: Gyms should operate at MERV-13 or greater; if they are unable to operate at that level, they must have heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professional document their inability to do so and adopt additional ventilation and mitigation protocols from American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As mentioned, there is much more detail available in the full 17-page guidance document.
Inspections of gyms and fitness centers in Westchester County will be conducted by a partnership of the Westchester County Department of Consumer Protection, the Westchester County Health Department and the local governments. Once a facility has met the criteria above and is ready to open, they should contact the County Health Department at 914-813-5000 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an inspection.
What has the Governor ordered for public employees in regards to emergency “social distancing”?
The governor has required state agencies and local governments to reduce their in-person workforce by 50% as well, with some limited exceptions. As a result, many of our members are seeing disruptions in the smooth processing of their interactions with public agencies at all levels of government, most particularly at the state, county, and local levels. In some cases, this is linked to a previous emergency measure requiring governmental bodies and public entities to reduce the employees at their workplace by 50%.
The New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) has issued an advisory opinion on how this will effect filing submissions, timelines for response, and other matters at the Office of Rent Administration (ORA) and the Tenant Protection Unit (TPU).
BRI and our statewide partners have heard anecdotally that municipal offices which deal with inspections, building codes, and the issuing of permits have in some cases become non-responsive, operating at irregular hours, or not operating at all. Since construction has been listed as an “essential service” by the Governor’s executive order, such offices will need to be more accommodating and flexible.
If you are having trouble getting a timely response from a municipal office on a construction-related project, the BRI staff is ready to assist you. Please call our office at 914-273-0730 or email us at email@example.com.
What has the Governor ordered as relief for tenants during the state emergency?
On May 7, the Governor issued an executive order to protect renters during the pandemic and resulting economic crisis.
- The current moratorium on residential and commercial evictions will be in effect until at least August 20.
- Landlords will not be allowed to charge late fees for those who miss rent payments during the state of emergency related to the pandemic.
- With the consent of the tenant, landlords must allow for a tenant’s security deposit to be used to pay rent if the tenant is “eligible for unemployment insurance or benefits under state or federal law or are otherwise facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The governor mentioned he was in discussion with banks about providing landlords some relief from mortgage payments during this time, but no details have yet been forthcoming.
How does "The COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020" affect landlords?
What renters are protected by the eviction moratorium? What does the order do/not do?
- I have used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing;
- I either expect to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return), was not required to report any income in 2019 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, or received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) pursuant to Section 2201 of the CARES Act;
- I am unable to pay my full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, lay-offs, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses;
- I am using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit, taking into account other nondiscretionary expenses;
- If evicted I would likely become homeless, need to move into a homeless shelter, or need to move into a new residence shared by other people who live in close quarters because I have no other available housing options.
- I understand that I must still pay rent or make a housing payment, and comply with other obligations that I may have under my tenancy, lease agreement, or similar contract. I further understand that fees, penalties, or interest for not paying rent or making a housing payment on time as required by my tenancy, lease agreement, or similar contract may still be charged or collected.
- I further understand that at the end of this temporary halt on evictions on December 31, 2020, my housing provider may require payment in full for all payments not made prior to and during the temporary halt and failure to pay may make me subject to eviction pursuant to State and local laws.
- I understand that any false or misleading statements or omissions may result in criminal and civil actions for fines, penalties, damages, or imprisonment.
- The order provides that a landlord “shall not evict any ‘covered person’ from any residential property in any jurisdiction to which this order applies.” Any renter who submits the declaration is a covered person.
- Unlike NY State law, where the moratorium only applies for cases where the loss of income was specific to the circumstances of the the COVID-19 pandemic, the order does appear to extend protections to tenants whose non-payment case commenced prior to the pandemic, so long as they make the declaration about their current circumstances.
- It does set criminal fines and penalties for landlords violating the order and tenants giving false or misleading statements or omissions on their declarations.
- It does not relieve the tenant of the obligation to pay rent or comply with the terms of their lease.
- It does not forgive or “cancel” any part of the unpaid rent or relieve them of future obligations under their lease.
- It does not prohibit the charging or collecting of fees, penalties or interest as a result of the failure to pay rent on a timely basis.
- It does not prohibit evictions for reasons other than non-payment of rent, such as criminal activity or threatening the health and safety of others.
- It does not prohibit the commencement of new non-payment cases or for other resolutions to existing non-payment cases so long as an eviction is not executed.
What have the Governor and County Executive Latimer done with regards to Westchester County property taxes during this state of emergency?
Westchester County Executive George Latimer announced on April 21 that an Executive Order by the Governor would allow the County to waive late fees for those unable to pay their county property taxes before July 15 due to loss of a job or loss of income during the state of emergency.
To have the fee waived, the resident or business must certify economic hardship caused by COVID-19. The threshold for the certification requires in part that a resident must have qualified for the STAR exemption, is not paying property taxes through an escrow account and can assert that they have suffered loss of substantial employment income as a result of COVID-19.
My co-op has an annual meeting happening soon — what do I do to comply with emergency “social distancing” measures?
Concerned co-op boards that do not wish to meet in person should consider alternative approaches to holding meetings, including either Video Conferencing or Telephone Conferencing. Finger & Finger has put together a one-pager with recommendations and guidance on how to hold a telephone or video conference board meeting.
Are housing co-ops eligible for PPP?
What about cleaning and disinfection?
The 32BJ Training Fund has created this video to provide building service workers with guidance on maintaining self, healthy building environments during the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19)
The CDC has also issued very specific recommendations on cleaning and disinfection which are worth reviewing.
Westchester County is requesting that all owners of buildings in which the County leases space perform a Level 2 cleaning on a daily basis. Those owners with buildings in the proximity to a known CoronaVirus/COVID-19 case, should perform a Level 3 cleaning on a daily basis. They’ve provided a link to the CDC requirements for a Level 2 and Level 3 cleaning.
Finally, there is a lot of bad advice and bad information being disseminated by less than reputable sources on everything from non-medical home remedies to homemade alternatives to cleaning products and supplies that may be temporarily scarce. We urge you and your employees to avoid using any atypical concoctions, products, or home remedies for cleaning or other purposes.
How should I approach dealing with quarantined residents and/or employees?
Local county health departments, including the Westchester County Health Department, have established different quarantine levels for people who may have come into contact with the coronavirus, whether or not they are currently symptomatic for COVID-19. This is being referred to as a “self-quarantine,” but that term does not mean that these 14 day “shelter in place” requirements are non-mandatory.
You should review New York State’s guidance for individuals under quarantine. Note that a number of requirements have implications for multifamily buildings, including garbage pickup, food delivery, and shared bathrooms.
Given the current inability to determine who may have been infected with the coronavirus even without developing symptoms and the inability to differentiate between residents who are working from home as opposed to residents who are undergoing self or mandatory quarantine, we strongly recommend that all non-emergency repairs in apartments be suspended. By “emergency” repairs, we mean the traditional areas of fire, smoke, and water.
For emergency repairs, we recommend that you clearly communicate to your workers what will be provided to them to ensure their safety. Owners and managers should be providing goggles and gloves in any case, and masks and disposable haz mat suits would be appropriate in the current circumstance.
What employment issues or scenarios should I prepare for?
National Law Review has published a detailed FAQ of issues that are worth consideration in dealing with employees who have or who may have come into contact with coronavirus.
If you are not yet using direct deposit, we strongly recommend you set direct deposit up for your workers at this time. Some of you will recall during the last contract negotiation with 32BJ SEIU, not all of the workers wanted direct deposit at that time. Clearly, times have changed. Each check transmitted by direct deposit eliminates unnecessary close contact interactions, potentially including the worker picking up a paycheck from a central office, a managing agent visiting multiple buildings to drop off paychecks, and subsequent visits to the bank to deposit said checks.
At this time, there has been no indication that shelter-in-place or curfew orders will be forthcoming as they have for California and Italy. However, a simple and reasonable precaution would be, if you are an “essential business” as categorized by Empire State Development’s guidance, to produce a letter for each of your employees on your company stationery stating who they work for, where they work, and that yours is considered an “essential business” pursuant to the Governor’s Executive Order. They should have this letter in their possession as they travel to and from work.
What are the new paid sick leave policies that have been enacted in reaction to COVID-19?
At the state level, Governor Cuomo signed into law A. 10152 / S. 8090, “to provide sick leave benefits to employees and to provide sick leave benefits, paid family leave, and benefits due to disability for employees subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19.”
- employees subject to mandatory or precautionary quarantines working for businesses with 1-10 employees will receive unpaid sick days, full job protection, and can immediately qualify for paid family leave and temporary disability benefits.
- employees subject to mandatory or precautionary quarantines working for medium sized businesses (11-99 employees) and small employers (1-10 employees) with a net income of $1 million a year will receive 5 paid sick days, full job protection, and can immediately qualify for paid family leave and temporary disability benefits at the conclusion of their sick leave.
- employees subject to mandatory or precautionary quarantines working for large businesses (100 or more employees) and public employees will receive paid sick days for the duration of the quarantine, plus full job protection.
- employees qualify for paid family leave to care for a minor dependent child who is subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19.
Effective 180 days after the bill becomes law (and so not directly responding to the public health emergency):
- employees working for small employers (1-4 employees), employees will receive five unpaid sick days per year, plus full job protection when taking sick days.
- employees working for medium sized employers (5-99 employees) and small employers (1-4 employees) with a net 1 income of $1 million a year, employees will receive five paid sick days per year, plus full job protection when taking sick days.
- employees working for large employers (100 or more employees), employees will receive seven paid sick days per year, plus full job protection when taking sick days.
At the federal level, President Trump signed the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” on March 18. Jackson Lewis has written up a summary of the new employer responsibilities under the law, as well as an FAQ.
What economic assistance programs for business owners or property owners have been put into place?
Small businesses and not-for-profits in Westchester are now eligible to receive low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital if they have suffered substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). We wanted to share this important information with our members. Our small businesses and not-for-profits are the lifeblood of our community. This first wave of assistance from the federal government is essential to provide some stability to our businesses and not-for-profits struggling with cash flow. The BCW is grateful to the SBA for including us in the declaration. Access to EIDL funds will help businesses cover basic essentials, such as payroll and fixed costs, in the short term, and will bring much needed certainty and stability at a time when it’s needed most.
For more information and to begin the process, please follow up with the SBA (https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19) or the Business Council of Westchester (https://thebcw.org/)
On March 19, the New York State Department of Financial Services issued a new directive to New York State mortgage servicers to provide 90-day mortgage relief to borrowers impacted by the novel coronavirus. The directive includes:
- Waiving mortgage payments based on financial hardship;
- No negative reporting to credit bureaus;
- Grace period for loan modification;
- No late payment fees or online payment fees; and
- Postponing or suspending foreclosures.
Eligibility for waived payments is specifically based on financial hardship. The 90 days constitutes a grace period; those who participate in the program will still owe their payments, but will be allowed to pay them at a later date.
NYFLF Loans Now Open to Those Who Received PPP or EIDL Funding
The New York Forward Loan Fund (NYFLF) now targets the state’s small businesses with *50* or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) employees, nonprofits and small residential landlords that have seen a loss of rental income.
When the New York Forward Loan Fund launched in May, the federal Small Business Administration had just issued rules regarding companies’ eligibility for federal assistance. The goal of the NYFLF was to help New York-based small businesses that did not receive PPP or EIDL funding with flexible working capital to reopen and adapt to post-COVID needs.
However, some NYFLF applicants who needed assistance were deemed ineligible because they had already received PPP or EIDL funds. Through discussions with lenders and applicants, it became apparent that PPP and EIDL loans did not go far enough to support New York-based small businesses. Legislative criteria restricted how the government assistance could be spent, and oftentimes PPP and EIDL amounts were a fraction of what was needed and requested.
Effective immediately, small businesses and non-profits that received a PPP loan of $500,000 or less or EIDL loans of $150,000 or less can be eligible for a NYFLF loan:
An Eligible Small Business must:
- Employ *50* or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) employees;
- Have gross revenues of less than *$5 million* per year;
- Must not have received a U.S. Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program of greater than $500,000 or an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) for COVID-19 of greater than $150,000;
- Have suffered a direct economic hardship as a result of COVID-19 related social distancing policies and stay-at-home order that have materially impacts their operations;
- Been in business for at least 1 year as of the date of the application; and
- Be located in the State of New York.
For more information and to start your pre-application visit: www.nyloanfund.com
Where should I go for additional health information on Novel Coronavirus and COVID-19?
The New York State Department of Health has set up a hotline at (888) 364-3065 where Department of Health experts will be available to answer questions regarding COVID-19.
Additionally, you can consult these websites for further information. They are being updated regularly.
Listen to the March 13 episode of the “Building Knowledge with The BRI” Radio Show: ““A Guide for Employers of Local 32-BJ Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Personnel on Coronavirus (COVID-19) Situations!” Guest: Matthew Persanis, Esq., Labor Counsel, BRI & A Principal of Elefante and Persanis, LLP.
Listen to the March 6 episode of the “Building Knowledge with The BRI” Radio Show: “Preparing Your Workplace for the Fight Against the Coronavirus (COVID-19)!” Guest: Stuart Betheil, Principal, Fleet West Management Corporation.
Listen to the February 1 episode of the “Constructive Conversations with The Builders Institute” Radio Show: “What Property Owners, Managers and Boards Should Know — and do — about Pandemic Situations!” Guest: Stuart Betheil, Principal, Fleet West Management Corporation.