Legal issues during COVID-19
Resources Compiled by LawHelpNY and the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project
About this page
Resources are being written everyday to help you with the legal issues you are facing.
We want you to know your options, know your rights, and know that help is available.
We are making ongoing updates to this page. If you don't see the issue you are facing addressed here today, please check back soon. You can also look for more information in our Know Your Rights Section.
Click to expand each box.
Getting legal help
Many legal aid organizations are ready to help you over the phone, online or chat.
Look for remote legal services in our Find a Lawyer search
Legal issues during COVID-19
Are the courts open? +
Courts are only hearing certain types of cases at this time. Some cases are being heard in-person, some are being heard virtually, and some cases may be rescheduled.
If you have questions about a case already in court, call the courthouse where the case is located. You can find the phone number for any court using the Court Locator on NYCourts.gov.
If you aren’t able to get through to the courthouse or you need additional information, you can call the Coronavirus Court Hotline at 1-833-503-0447
If you have an emergency, you can still start a new case in court, for example, you can file for an order of protection, you can file for a violation of a custody order if the other parent is not returning your child, or anything else you need a judge to look at right away. If you don't know if your case is considered an emergency, you should contact the court or an attorney.
You may be able to find updates about courts in New York State at NYcourts.gov
These links provide more information about what kinds of cases the New York City courts are still open to hear:
I am facing eviction. What are my rights? +
There is currently a federal and state pause on evictions. Here are some of the basics:
- This pause is called an "eviction moratorium"
- The moratorium is on residential and commercial evictions
New York is also banning fees for late or missed payments during the eviction moratorium.
Renters facing financial hardship due to COVID-19 are also allowed to use their security deposit as payment and repay their security deposit over time - read more about that here.
There is also a ban on fees for late or missed payments in New York State until January 1, 2021.
The federal pause on evictions has been enacted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and covers only certain tenants. Read more about the CDC eviction moratorium and who is covered here.
Under New York state rules, if you cannot pay your rent and have experienced financial hardship due to COVID-19, you cannot be evicted until after January 1, 2021. This is called the Tenant Safe Harbor Act.
If you live in New York City and need help paying rent, you may qualify for one of these rental assistance programs.
Here is some more information about the Tenant Safe Harbor Act in New York State
Your landlord can still take you to court because of this unpaid rent, but you can't be evicted because of it.
The Tenant Safe Harbor Act now includes tenants who could not pay for their rent even before COVID-19.
If you are facing eviction, read this updated summary on your rights.
Can my landlord still start an eviction case?
- Yes, landlords can still bring new eviction cases against tenants even though evictions are paused.
- Tenants will get notice of any new case in the mail, and will be able to telephone the Court to respond to the case.
- No tenant has to physically appear in Housing Court at this time in order to defend their case.
- If you have received court papers, free legal help may be available. Use the Find a Lawyer search to find free legal services near you.
These fact sheets explain more about the eviction pause and your rights as a tenant*
*Some of these resources may have not yet been updated to show that the eviction moratorium has been extended until October 20 for commercial tenants and January 1 for residential tenants or that new cases are now allowed.
- If you can’t pay your rent because of COVID, here is some information about what you can do from Right to Counsel NYC.
- If your landlord is trying to evict you and the case was started before March 17, 2020, click here for more information about what to expect from Legal Aid NYC.
- If your landlord is trying to evict you and the case was started after March 17, 2020, click here for more information about what to expect from Legal Aid NYC.
Read "Important Information About Evictions During the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis" from Legal Assistance of Western NY (LawNY) - including what qualifies as landlord harassment
Get more answers in this COVID-19 Renters and Eviction section from Nassau Suffolk Law Services - including what to do if you received a Section 8 termination and how to pay rent with your security deposit
You can call these hotlines for more about tenants rights or to get a referral for legal assistance
Statewide hotline: 833-503-0447, open 24/7. They will soon be able to answer questions in all languages with interpreters. This is a referral line only -- hotline workers aren’t able to answer specific legal questions, but they will be able to direct you to the courts, clerks offices and other resources in your region. If you don’t get through the first time, keep trying!
In NYC, you can also call Housing Court Answers, 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday: (212) 962-4795 or (718) 557-1379. Calls are answered directly in Spanish, English and French, and interpreters are used for all other languages through the LanguageLine translation service.
In the Capital District and in Upstate NY, you can call United Tenants of Albany's Housing Hotline, 9am-5pm Monday-Friday at (518) 436-8997, ext. 3 for referrals and guidance about your housing questions. For speakers of languages other than English, interpreting services are available through LanguageLine.
Look for free legal services near you using the Find a Lawyer search on LawHelpNY
I need repairs in my apartment. +
If you need repairs in your apartment, contact your landlord right away. Your landlord must make sure that your apartment is safe and habitable.
If you live outside of New York City, you can contact your local housing authority or call the statewide hotline, 833-503-0447 for referrals and assistance.
If you live in New York City and your landlord does not make necessary repairs, you can call 311 for assistance.
You can also use the JustFix app for information and assistance with taking your landlord to court for emergency repairs. Emergency repairs include: no gas; no heat or hot water; lead-based paint; toilet not working; tenant harassment.
What are my options if I'm out of work due to COVID-19? +
If you have lost your job or been furloughed, you are not eligible for federal paid sick leave or federal paid family leave, as you may know. You should apply for unemployment insurance benefits.
Here are some things you should know about applying for Unemployment Insurance benefits:
- New York State is waiving the 7-Day waiting period for Unemployment Insurance benefits for people who are out of work due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) closures or quarantines.
- If you are filing a new unemployment insurance claim, the day you should file is based on the first letter of your last name. Find out what day to apply here.
- After you complete your form online, you may need to call the Telephone Claims Center at (888) 209-8124
- The Telephone Claims Center is open from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and on Saturday and Sunday from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- You may need to call multiple times to get through to an agent - don't give up!
- Get more information about Unemployment from NY Department of Labor
The federal CARES Act was signed into law March 27, 2020.
The Act provides enhanced Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for New Yorkers. Here’s what you need to know.
You may also be protected by paid sick leave and family leave laws.
- Read the Fact Sheet on Workplace Rights and COVID-19 by the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) for a summary of city, state and federal laws that may protect you.
The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides:
- Paid Sick Leave of up to 2 weeks depending on the size of your employer.
- Paid Family Leave including 12 weeks of paid leave for employees who are unable to work or telework (work from home) because their children's schools or childcare providers are closed.
If your workplace closed or if you have been furloughed, you should apply for Unemployment Insurance Benefits (link to NY DOL) because you are not eligible for federal paid sick leave and federal paid family leave.
The Empire Justice Center has more answers about the federal and state laws about paid sick and family leave.
Under New York State's Paid Sick Leave law some employers must provide 5 to 14 days of job-protected, paid sick leave to employees who need to take leave.
In addition, New York State has a Paid Family Leave law.
National Center for Law and Economic Justice have put together a resource to help you understand the government programs that are available to help you make ends meet. Get the fact sheet here.
I need help with unemployment benefits. +
The New York State Bar Association has created an Unemployment Insurance Relief page that can help you if
- You need to file a claim
- You have already filed a claim
- Your claim was denied
Here are some more helpful resources about applying for unemployment benefits
- Watch this video with the most recent answers to questions about unemployment benefits from New York Legal Assistance Group
- Read about Unemployment Insurance Benefits and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance from LawNY
- Read this PDF of step-by-step instructions for how to file for unemployment online
I need to talk to someone for help and I live in New York City
During the COVID-19 crisis, the VOLS Unemployed Workers Project provides much needed support and guidance to New Yorkers.
Trained attorneys are available to answer questions about the various unemployment programs’ eligibility requirements, payment amounts and will help you navigate the process of filing for benefits.
You may be eligible for free attorney representation if you are denied benefits. Here is how to get help:
- Call VOLS Unemployed Workers project at 347-521-5720
- Complete the online interest form to request contact from a VOLS representative
- Read more information and answers to frequently asked questions about unemployment on the VOLS website
You may also be able to receive help from the Access to Benefits Helpline from the Legal Aid Society
The Access to Benefits (A2B) Helpline 888-663-6880 will be open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
A2B staff can assist NYC residents with employment and unemployment benefits matters, issues related to Medicaid/health law, SNAP, public assistance, disability, and other benefits and issues related to COVID-19.
I need to talk to someone for help and I do not live in New York City
You can also find help in your county using our Find a Lawyer search.
If you can't find help near you, you may be able to connect with a volunteer attorney through the New York State Bar Association.
What can I do if I can't pay my bills? +
If you are having trouble paying bills or mortgage payments, you can read this helpful resource from Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about protecting yourself financially.
There are many protections being put in place for you - read about adjustments that are being made to many of the bills and fees you may be paying in this online PDF FAQ for consumers
What about student loans?
If you are having trouble paying your student loan bills, read about the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The CARES act suspends principal and interest payments on federal student loans thorugh September 30, 2020.
How do I manage my money?
New York Legal Assistance Group has put together some helpful tips on financial planning during a crisis.
The Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project has put together a list of useful consumer and homeowner information.
I think I have been targeted by a scammer.
Scammers look for opportunities to take advantage of the vulnerable, especially during times of emergencies or natural disasters.
My partner is abusive. How do I keep myself and my children safe? +
Shelters and domestic violence programs are still open and can help. If you need help right now, call 911 for the police.
Call a domestic violence hotline, for help with safety planning, finding shelter, support, and treatment for injuries
- The New York State 24-hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline 1-800-942-6906
- The U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE(7233)
- NYC residents can call the NYC Family Justice Centers for help with safety planning, applying for benefits, legal help, and more.
- Find more information on these issues on Brooklyn Volunteer Lawyers Project's Family Law Resources page
There are many online resources for finding shelters, support and treatment
- Visit New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence to learn more about services
- Read about how to make a safety plan from TheHotline.org
- Read this article about the impact COVID-19 may have on intimate partner violence survivors from TheHotline.org
- Find many more related resources from FuturesWithoutViolence.org
You have the right to ask the court for a “Temporary Order of Protection”
An Order of Protection is a legal document issued by a judge to protect you or your children from an abuser.
Orders of Protection can order someone to “stay away” or have no contact with you or your children, and can limit the person's communications with you.
Orders of Protection are considered “essential” matters by the court. This means, you can "petition" (or ask) the court for an order of protection. A Temporary Order of Protection is valid for a shorter period of time, usually until the next court appearance.
Your attorney or advocate can "petition" (or ask) the court for a Temporary Order of Protection or you can do it yourself.
If you need to do it yourself, you can reach the court by calling the Coronavirus Telephone Hotline at 1-833-503-0447.
If you are in NYC you can get information about getting an emergency order of protection by calling 646-386-5299 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Court forms for filing an Orders of Protection can be found on NYcourts.gov
What if I already have a Temporary Order of Protection?
If you already have a Temporary Order of Protection that is valid as of March 19, 2020, it will remain in effect until the court is able to hear the matter.
So, even if your Order has now expired, you can still call the police and have it enforced.
The court is postponing hearings on existing Temporary Orders of Protection.
If you had a hearing scheduled, you may have a new court date.
Call the courthouse where your case is being heard to find out if the case has been postponed.
- Find contact information for any court in New York state using the Court Locator on NYCourts.gov
What about custody, visitation and child support? +
Read this resource by Legal Assistance of Western New York (LawNY) about custody, visitation and child support during the COVID-19 crisis.
This article from Empire Justice Center has answers to many questions you may have if you are paying child support, lost your job, file a joint tax return, or currently owe child support. This article also discusses how stimulus checks may be affected by child support.
If you are living in NYC, find more information on these issues on Brooklyn Volunteer Lawyers Project's Family Law Resources page.
What can I do as a freelancer or small business owner? +
If you're a small business owner in NYC, your business may qualify for financial help from the City.There are a number of programs, grants and loans to help you now. Read more on NYC.gov
If you are a freelancer or self-employed, you can apply for unemployment and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
Even if you are not normally eligible for unemployment you can apply for benefitis at this time (for example, self-employed, independent contractors, farmers workers with limited work history, and others).
If you have questions as an employer, read Small Business Employment Issues and COVID-19.
If you have a commercial lease, read about your obligations and what to do if you are facing non-performance in Commercial Leases and Covid-19.
My family member has passed away from COVID-19 and has a small estate. +
When a person dies (the “Decedent”) with less than $50,000 of personal property, the Decedent’s estate is considered a small estate and the Surrogate’s Court proceeding that is used is called a Voluntary Administration. This proceeding is used whether or not the Decedent executed a Last Will and Testament during his or her lifetime. Personal property includes bank and retirement accounts, cars, stocks, bonds and anything of value that has the Decedent’s name alone, with no joint owner and no beneficiary designation. It does not include real property like houses, land, and buildings.
How can I get help with my family member's small estate?
- You can get matched with a volunteer lawyer by the New York State Bar Association
- If you live in New York City, you can also get matched with a volunteer lawyer by the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project
I am having trouble paying my mortgage. +
Foreclosures are suspended until at least December 31, 2020 for mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration or backed by Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac.
If your mortgage is not insured by the Federal Housing Administration or backed by Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac, cases already in court will not be suspended, and new cases can be filed.
If you’re dealing with an existing foreclosure case or a new case is started against you, no decisions will be made until the court can schedule a conference that includes you and all other parties.
No foreclosure auctions are allowed to be held prior to October 15, 2020.
More Know Your Rights Resources about foreclosure during COVID-19
I need something else. +
We are sorry you didn't find what you're looking for yet. Here are some good resources that have answers to some issues we aren't yet covering on this page
- Latest information by legal issue area from New York Legal Assistance Group - you can find information here about wage garnishments, mediciad, immigration, health insurance, special education, taxes, veteran issues, and more.
- Frequently asked questions and resources from Empire Justice Center - you can find information here about social security, scams and fraud, stimulus checks, child support, nursing homes, and more.
- The Legal Aid Society has also published information on various legal issues you may be facing during COVID-19 and information on the courts.
You can also chat with one of our LiveHelp volunteers, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Click here to start chatting!