NEW YORK - TakeRoot Justice advocacy coordinator Pillar DeJesus is running out of time.
"Tenants have a way to prevent being taken to court come Monday," she said. "You can do it right now. Do it right now. If you're like 'Oh, shoot' [and] you haven't paid rent, even if you paid a little portion, go online."
DeJesus and other tenant advocates in New York City continue to scramble to convince any tenant facing eviction or worried their landlord might soon file an eviction case against them to fill out a hardship declaration form and submit it to their landlord or the court before the 60-day pause on eviction proceedings ends on Feb. 26.
"Well, today is the deadline, right?" landlord Karron Graves-Briceno said. "We served [the hardship declaration form]. And I haven't received [a signed copy] yet but my hands are tied. What am I to do? How long am I to wait?"
A teacher and actor, Graves-Briceno rents out a condo unit on 150th Street in Harlem to a tenant she says hasn't paid any rent since April, leaving Graves-Briceno out $20,000 and counting.
"I've spent over 25 years accumulating a life savings that's gone into this unit," she said. "This is my retirement income and [this eviction moratorium] is depleting it."
Graves-Briceno says she started appealing to her tenant to apply for relief in April, she invited him to co-apply with her, to work with her somehow, in some way.
"And I still, under the current laws and programs, I can't get any relief because I am not the renter," she said.
And even if her tenant fails to fill out the hardship declaration form by Friday's deadline, the backlog in the courts might delay the day he moves out another 10 months.
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"Renters who are gaming the system and have a track record of gaming the system and do not need the relief," Graves-Briceno said, "they're extended the same moratorium and that doesn't make any sense.
Eviction cases can return to courts Monday, March 1. Those tenants who submit their hardship declaration forms remain protected until May 1. Tenants can submit the form after Feb. 26, right up until a marshal arrives at their door with an eviction notice.
Graves-Briceno doesn't know when or if she'll ever receive any of the unpaid rent owed to her, or when her current tenant might finally move out.
DeJesus would probably agree with Graves-Briceno that this temporary eviction moratorium has its flaws.
"These little 'Oh, we're going to delay it this long': it's a lot of work," she said, "and it doesn't really help a lot of people."