COVID-19 Consumer & Homeowner Resources
COVID-19 CONSUMER INFORMATION
As the number of documented cases of COVID-19 continue to increase across the United States, public health is a primary nationwide concern. Unfortunately, we are also now seeing the most vulnerable communities having to deal with financial challenges and pandemic-related scams. Like most, you may be experiencing a great deal of uncertainty and fear around COVID-19 and its impact on your economic stability. Thankfully, safeguards have been put into place to protect New York State residents.
The VLP is also proud to have signed on to a letter with other consumer advocates urging a lift on enforcement of consumer judgements by use of a bank levy or income execution. While there is no official directive yet, some judges have lifted restraints while the motion is still pending.
IMPORTANT CONTACT INFORMATION
Kings County Clerk: (347) 404-9123
Coronavirus Court Hotline: (833) 503-0447
If you are a current VLP volunteers who needs guidance from VLP staff on consumer and foreclosure matters or are interested in providing help to new clients during this time, please reach out to VLP’s Director of Legal Services, Sidney Cherubin at (718) 624-3895 or email@example.com.
Not a current VLP volunteer, but want to help out? Please contact VLP’s Director of Pro Bono Anne O’Grady at (718) 473-9202 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Consumer cases at Kings Civil Court: No cases – including orders to show cause – are being heard. All cases are being adjourned and the court is notifying litigants of new court dates. For current judgments being enforced, the court may deem an “essential matter” and allow individuals to file an order to show cause at 320 Jay Street (Criminal Court).
Economic Impact Payments: For consumer receiving stimulus checks, those funds have been deemed exempt from garnishment under New York law by the Attorney General, Letitia James. Ms. James has issued guidance to banks regarding this exemption, saying, “Banking institutions are advised that they should treat CARES Act payments as subject to the same protections as statutorily exempt payments.” Her office will prosecute any violations of this guidance.
New case filings from creditors: Chief Judge Marks announced that beginning Monday, May 25, 2020 new matters, previously classified as “nonessential,” will be able to be filed electronically for the five New York City counties and the Long Island counties of Nassau and Suffolk, along with Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester counties using NYSCEF. While this might not affect filings in the civil courts, creditors are able to file consumer credit cases in Supreme Court.
Temporarily, civil courts are not accepting new case filings from creditors. Statute of limitations for filings is tolled from March 20, 2020 – June 6, 2020.
Credit card debt, auto loans, personal loans: If individuals cannot make credit card payments, many banks are offering deferred monthly payments (90 days/120 days, etc.). Contact banks directly for details (call numbers on the back of cards or on monthly statements). This does not waive the monthly amount owed, but interest and late fees should not be applied during times of deferment.
Third-party debt collectors: Many have agreed to suspend debt collection activities if consumers can demonstrate a hardship related to COVID-19. Collection activities will cease when someone shows that their only income is exempt, i.e. Social Security, unemployment.
Checking and savings accounts: Banks may offer fee waivers for services like expedited checks and overdraft protection.
Medical and student loan debt owed to New York State: These debts are suspended through May 17, 2020. Ex. SUNY or state-owned hospital debt (not private parties or federal government debt).
Federal student loans: As of March 13, 2020, interest will be 0% and payments are suspended until September 30, 2020. Payments are automatically suspended. These suspended payments count towards income driven repayment plans, public service loan forgiveness, and loan rehabilitation. If income will be low for a considerable amount of time after this period, consider income-driven repayment plans which can be set up by loan servicers. Contact the loan servicer to continue to make payments if preferred. These provisions are not applicate to private student loans.
Price gouging: The Department of Consumer Affairs and Worker Protection (DCWP) has promulgated an emergency Rule under the City’s Consumer Protection Law that makes price gouging illegal for any personal or household good or any service that is needed to prevent or limit the spread of or treat COVID-19. The Rule, NYC Administrative Code 20-701(b), is in effect and makes it illegal to increase prices by 10% or more. The Rule follows DCWP’s previous declaration that face masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes are in short supply and expands the Agency’s ability to protect New Yorkers from price gouging.
DCWP encourages consumers who are overcharged to file a complaint at nyc.gov/dcwp or by contacting 311 and saying “overcharge.” Consumers who believe they were victimized by price gouging should keep their receipts and any information about the store where the transaction occurred and file a complaint with DCWP.
Scams: Be careful! Do not click on unfamiliar links and do not provide personal information to unverified sources. There has been a spike in COVID-19 scams on social media, email, texts, and websites. Scammers are impersonating the Internal Revenue Service, the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), and the New York Department of Education (DOE). To file a complaint involving a potential scam, visit the New York Department of Financial Services online or contact the Consumer Hotline at (800) 342-3736.
COVID-19 HOMEOWNER AND RENTER INFORMATION
Mortgages: If homeowners cannot make mortgage payments, contact mortgage servicers to request payment forbearances. Forbearances do not forgive the debt, but they may extend loan terms with no late payment fees and no negative reporting to credit bureaus.
Foreclosures: Foreclosures are suspended until at least June 30, 2020 for mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration or backed by Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac. New York State has instructed all mortgage lenders/services to suspend all foreclosure proceedings through June 20, 2020 and additionally through August 20, 2020 for homeowners suffering suffering a financial hardship as a result of the pandemic, although this instruction is not necessarily binding on the mortgage lenders/servicers.
Evictions: All eviction proceedings have been stayed until June 20, 2020. This does not mean that money is not owed, but perhaps eligible relief programs will be created. Supposedly new eviction proceedings are still being filed, but people cannot be defaulted for not appearing. Essential applications (lockouts, repair orders) are allowed.
Utilities: Governor Cuomo ordered that all essential utilities (electric and gas) not be shut off for nonpayment.
If you – or someone you know – have legal questions and would like legal help, please call our intake help line at (718) 624-3894 or by starting an online intake.