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Legal issues during COVID-19

Contents
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.

Looking for information concerning the Covid-19 vaccine? Learn more about the current groups that are eligible and vaccination locations here.

 

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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:

 


Have you recently had a court appearance or virtual court appearance? We want to hear from you! 

I have a virtual court appearance. +

 

Your virtual court appearance may be held online or by phone. Your court meeting notice will list how you will be expected to appear.

 

Learn more about appearing in court virtually and how to prepare for your meeting on this NY State Court page

 


Have you recently had a court appearance or virtual court appearance? We want to hear from you! 

I need to submit court papers. +

 

 

The Electronic Document Delivery System securely delivers documents to court. During the Covid-19 pandemic you may also be able to e-file documents.

 

Learn how to submit court papers virtually on the NY State Court page for electronic document delivery

 


Have you recently had a court appearance or virtual court appearance? We want to hear from you! 

I am facing eviction. What are my rights? +

 

There is currently a state pause on evictions. Here are some of the basics:

 

  • This pause is called an "eviction moratorium".
  • The moratorium is on residential evictions.
  • 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 May 1. This is called the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act.
  • You will need to submit a hardship declaration to your landlord or the court. You can print a hardship declaration form here or fill out the form online using this hardship declaration form builder from Eviction Free NY.
  • If you live in New York City and need help paying rent, you may qualify for one of these rental assistance programs.
  • If you are facing eviction, read this updated summary on your rights.

 

Can my landlord still start an eviction case?

 

  • Your landlord can still take you to court because of unpaid rent, but must have given you the hardship declaration before starting the case. Completing the hardship declaration and submitting it to your landlord or the court will stop your landlord from starting or moving forward with a case until at least May 1.
  • 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 May 1 for residential tenants or that new cases are suspended until May 1.

 

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.

 

Federal laws

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.

 

State laws

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.

 

Local laws

New York City's Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law and Westchester County's Earned Sick Leave Law may provide additional rights, especially if you are a domestic worker.

 

More support

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

 

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:

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, please note that an Executive Order directed the Department of Education suspend principal and interest payments on federally-held student loans until September 30, 2021.  Read more here.

 

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. 

Read more about how to be aware of scams here.

 

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

 

There are many online resources for finding shelters, support and treatment

 

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.

 

My family member has passed away from COVID-19 and I need help with funeral expenses. +

 

Under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, FEMA will provide financial assistance for Covid-19-related funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020.

 

This resource from FEMA describes who is eligible for their assistance as well as how to apply for assistance for Covid-19 related funeral expenses.

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.

 

Click here to learn more about Surrogates' Court and get forms

 

How can I get help with my family member's small estate?

I am having trouble paying my mortgage. +

 

Foreclosures are suspended until at least February 28 for mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

 

All pending residential foreclosures are suspended at least until February 27. Homeowners experiencing hardship due to the Covid-19 pandemic may submit a hardship declaration for their case to be suspended at least until May 1. You can find the hardship declaration form here.

 

Residential foreclosure cases started between December 28, 2020 and January 27, 2021, are suspended for sixty (60) days from the start date.

 

For residential properties, suspensions also apply to tax lien foreclosures.

 

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

 

 

 

  • 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!

 

Last Review and Update: Apr 01, 2021