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How To Navigate Rent as an Undocumented New Yorker

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stated in response to a question about rent relief for those affected by the coronavirus that “[renters] cannot be evicted for non-payment of rent.” However, there were some loopholes regarding that statement, since not all New York renters will have the same protection from eviction in the final two months of the moratorium.

The moratorium will only apply to tenants who have suffered a “financial hardship” because of COVID-19 or who qualify for unemployment. That means undocumented immigrants could soon find themselves in court – or worse, in the streets – during the outbreak of an infectious disease that has claimed more than 21,000 lives across New York City.

Another loophole is that the language used by the Governor is not very precise and it remains unclear how the state defines “financial hardship.”

So, does this mean undocumented immigrants are doomed to become homeless? Not necessarily. Here’s what you can do:

If you are struggling to make ends meet, the city’s Human Resources Administration can offer some help through the “One Shot Deal.” This emergency assistance program can provide qualifying New Yorkers with a one-time payment they can put toward rent.

Secondly, communication is key. If you can’t make rent, you should let your landlord know that you recently suffered a loss of income and see if an arrangement can be reached. If your landlord isn’t a monster or he is not in a terrible situation him/herself, you can probably make something work to make up for any missed payments down the line.

Lastly, you can contact an organization like the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, whose mission is to fight for justice for poor and low-income New Yorkers, and they can offer you some legal advice on the matter. If you’re in Los Angeles, you can contact LAFLA for any urgent legal matters as an undocumented worker and they’ll represent you for free.

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