In New York, COVID-19 has resulted in a number of temporary changes in the law. Since Governor Cuomo declared a state of emergency and enacted the New York PAUSE Act, he has issued a long list of executive orders which in part, have modified and stayed various legal provisions. Some of the executive orders have been well-publicized, including a prohibition of large gatherings (now modified to allow gatherings of 10 or fewer), closing of schools and non-essential businesses, and mandated use of face coverings in public.
However, others are not as publicized or understood. While this post summarizes several of the key actions to date, these are likely to change over the next few months. As a result, it is important to speak with an attorney for the most current information on how the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic may affect your legal matters.
**Updated through Executive Order 202.34 (5/29/20)
Trust and Estate Planning
Many estate planning documents, including powers of attorney, can now be notarized remotely utilizing a specifically defined procedure. Remote execution and witnessing of wills and health care proxies are also permitted provided the appropriate requirements are met.
The Governor has also extended the grace period for life insurance policyholders to pay premiums. Those facing a COVID-19 related hardship have a 90-day extension.
These above provisions are in effect indefinitely. (See discussion below under Ambiguity in the Rules regarding expiration dates.)
The closure of most courts has put lawsuits on hold. As a result, all statutes of limitations and other filing deadlines are tolled indefinitely. (See discussion below.)
To address the financial strain on many individuals due to COVID-19, various deadlines, and enforcement actions related to real estate have been modified or suspended. These include the following:
- Enforcement of any residential or commercial eviction or foreclosure stays through June 20, 2020.
- The Department of Financial Services is authorized to adopt temporary regulations requiring mortgage forbearance, and to restrict ATM, overdraft, and credit card late fees.
- Banking law revisions now define a refusal to grant borrowers a 90-day forbearance on mortgage payments as an “unsafe and unsound” business practice, which effectively means lenders must grant a 90-day forbearance. This expires on June 6, 2020.
- Any statutes and regulations which would create a landlord-tenant relationship between any individual assisting with COVID-19 or displaced by COVID-19 and anyone who provides the individual with temporary housing for 30 days are suspended until June 7, 2020. Essentially, individuals can provide temporary housing to those affected by COVID-19 without worrying about creating a landlord-tenant relationship.
- Municipalities are authorized to extend deadlines for the payment of school and real property taxes, as well as for the finalization of property tax rolls.
- Landlords can apply security deposits to rent arrears provided the tenant consents and specified procedures are followed.
- Landlords are not permitted to assess penalties for late payment of rent due between March and August.
- No proceedings can be commenced or enforced for a residential or commercial eviction or foreclosure for nonpayment until August 30, 2020.
Corporations and Business Operations
The Business Corporation Law has been modified to permit corporate Boards to take unanimous action by email. In addition, the requirement that shareholder meetings be held in person, rather than electronically has been eliminated. Both provisions are in effect indefinitely.
To assist businesses, the state has extended filing deadlines for sales and use taxes and abated penalties and interest for 60 days. In addition, the time to renew various business licenses has been extended until 30 days following the expiration of the Executive Order, which currently does not have a set expiration date.
Insurers are also prohibited from canceling a variety of policies issued to individuals and businesses with 100 or fewer employees indefinitely.
Among the most significant changes in New York was the elimination of waiting periods for those suffering job loss related to COVID-19 or caused by an order of a governmental entity, enabling individuals to apply immediately for unemployment insurance. This provision is set to expire on June 6, 2020.
Marriage license rules have also been amended. Parties whose marriage license expired during the state of Emergency can obtain a new license, and fees are waived for the second license. In addition, remote electronic marriages are permitted subject to certain specific procedures. Both provisions expire on June 7, 2020.
It is possible that many of the changes outlined above will be further extended and should be discussed with an attorney. If any of these may affect you, contact us for a consultation.