1 day 7 hours ago

This article originally appeared at on August 11, 2020, at


U.S. bankruptcies are en route to a 10-year high with 424 companies filing as of August 9, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. The group's analysis took into account both public and private companies with public debt. The coronavirus has hit consumer companies hard, with more than 100 filing for bankruptcy including Men's Wearhouse parent Tailored Brands Inc. TLRD, +4.57%, department store Lord & Taylor and work wear retailer Brooks Brothers. Nearly 100 bankruptcies are in the energy and industrials sector. Oil-and-gas producer Chesapeake Energy Corp. CHKAQ, +5.28% and small-engine maker Briggs & Stratton Corp. are among the 35 companies that have filed with more than $1 billion in liabilities.

2 days 13 hours ago

If you’re filing for personal bankruptcy, the bankruptcy code provides two main options: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. If you want a “straight” bankruptcy wherein you allow the bankruptcy court to liquidate your assets in order to pay back your creditors, the bankruptcy chapter for you is Chapter 7, also known as liquidation bankruptcy.
Going through this bankruptcy process allows you to pursue debt relief by eliminating almost all of your debts after your bankruptcy trustee sells some of your personal property and uses the proceeds to pay off one creditor after another.
How Can a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Help You?
The following are the most known benefits of declaring bankruptcy under Chapter 7:

  1. A Way out of Debt

Federal bankruptcy law regulates bankruptcy proceedings, which in Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases result in the virtual elimination of unsecured debt. Unsecured debts are those that do not have collateral attached to them, e.g. store charge card or credit card debt, medical bills, and personal loans.

  1. Bankruptcy Protection

Filing bankruptcy triggers the automatic stay, which effectively halts the collection efforts of creditors, collection agencies, and other debt collectors. All attempts to collect the debt, from phone calls and letters to wage garnishment and mortgage liens, must be stopped. This gives a debtor some breathing space while he or she works out her financial problems and plans for a better financial future.

  1. Credit Negotiation Tool

Bankruptcies have a way of softening the stance of unbending creditors. A debt collector is more willing to negotiate and strike a deal in the face of an impending bankruptcy discharge and the possibility of ending up with nothing. This kind of negotiation, however, can get tricky, so it is best handled by an experienced bankruptcy attorney.
How Can a Bankruptcy Lawyer Help You?
bankruptcy chapter 7While engaging the services of a lawyer is not required, bankruptcy filers are encouraged to hire legal help so they can be advised and guided on their bankruptcy filing toward the best possible results. An attorney who specializes in bankruptcy law can help a bankrupt client make informed decisions throughout the process. 
How can you benefit from getting legal assistance?

  • You can better understand the different bankruptcy options and how the means test works so that you can have an idea of what assets you could lose and how the bankruptcy petition could turn out for you.
  • You can be guided on how to file for bankruptcy properly, by filling out bankruptcy forms and collecting accompanying documents so that you avoid unfortunate mistakes.
  • You can be counseled on the different bankruptcy exemptions available to you so that you end up choosing which ones best suit your bankruptcy case.
  • You can count on support and representation throughout your bankruptcy journey.

Considering a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy? Contact a Texas Bankruptcy Attorney Today!
The decision to declare bankruptcy is a serious one. Let us advise you on the best solutions to your situation and help you take action. Call us at Allmand Law Firm, PLLC to speak with a skilled and experienced bankruptcy lawyer about your case.
The post Texas Bankruptcy – Chapter 7 Cases appeared first on Allmand Law Firm, PLLC.

4 days 22 hours ago

Things have not been so great for a lot of Texans this year.  To put it mildly, there has been a lot of doom and gloom spreading across our airwaves since the middle of March.  If you have listened to the radio, a current events podcast, or watched the news at all (and we understand if you have tried to stay away), you know that a major topic that has been discussed at length recently is the deadlock between our government leaders in Washington over the creation of new legislation that will extend certain benefits and provide needed resources to businesses and individuals all across America.  Sadly, it appears that progress has been stifled by deeply held convictions over what kind of support is needed, how much should be given, and of course, to whom.  As we continue to struggle in our fight to contain the spread of the novel Coronavirus that causes COVID-19, one thing is clear: the world is continuing to move forward, with or without a new stimulus package, and businesses and people in Texas and all across the country are struggling to stay afloat.
Much of the media discussion has focused on the expiration of the Cares Act, which officially ended last week and the ramifications that its conclusion will have for people who are currently receiving unemployment funds (with the $600 bonus included).  But it wasn’t only the additional unemployment benefits that expired when the first stimulus program ended.  Many protections for renters are also expiring or have expired, and moratoriums on evictions that have been in place since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic started to expire as well.  This has created a serious problem for Texans who are out of work, have had their hours or wages slashed, or have been furloughed at their jobs, and are having difficulty paying the rent.
With all the stresses that go with job loss and underemployment, many are now facing the additional threat of having to move and/or the potential of homelessness as well.  In these dire times of uncertainty, and with the ever-present threat of a continuing and escalating global pandemic upon us, what is the best option for tenants who need a place to live, and for the landlords who still need to collect rent and earn income on their properties?
In a word, the best and first step is always communication.
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Before you jump headfirst into that mandatory conversation with your landlord, you need to take a moment to breathe, collect your thoughts, and come up with a plan.  Just like coaches prepare before a football game, and business owners prepare for a big presentation, you as an at-risk tenant need to first decide on a game plan and determine what you want to achieve. 
For example:

  • Do you want to stay in the property and bring the rent current?
  • Do you want additional time before you decide whether or not to move out?
  • Are you ready to move out now, but just need some extra time to move to find another place?

Let’s look at scenario one first. If the goal is to stay in the property and bring the rent current, then you need to consider a few factors, including how much additional time you have remaining on the lease. If you do not have much time left on the lease, then it might not be in your best interest to spend every last dime to catch up on the delinquency, because the landlord can always refuse to renew the lease and proceed with eviction even if the rent current. The following are strategies to accomplish this goal:

  1. Negotiate directly with the Landlord for additional time. The more money you have to put down and the sooner you can catch up on the rent, the more likely an agreement can be reached. However, make sure you get the agreement in writing, because there have been many stories reported where the Landlord made a verbal agreement not to proceed with the eviction and accepted partial payment, but then continued with the eviction anyway.
  2. Filing a Chapter 7 or 11 bankruptcy case to immediately stop the eviction and resume normal payments after filing. The bankruptcy will allow the individual to cure the lease arrears before filing by making monthly bankruptcy payments. Most bankruptcy law firms offer free consultations. Allmand Law Firm offers free virtual consultations and filings across the state of Texas.

Second, if your goal is to get additional time to determine whether you will need to move out, then you can do the following:

  1. Negotiate with the Landlord for additional time, but be sure to get it in writing.
  2. If an eviction notice has already been served, you can contest the eviction by filing a response, raising a statutory defense, and requesting discovery to verify compliance with Cares Act.  Also, if an eviction order has already been entered, you can file an appeal of the order, which can buy you and your family additional time in the property while the appeal is heard.
  3. If an eviction notice hasn’t been served, filing Chapter 7 or 11 bankruptcy will impose an automatic stay to prevent an eviction. Tenants can then reject the lease discharge, the lease arrears, and any additional unsecured debt. This strategy delays the evictions, grants you additional time in the property, and has the added benefits that accompany other bankruptcy filings: the ability to unload your burdensome credit card and other unsecured debt.

For the final option, even if you are willing to move out, then you should try to negotiate an agreement with your landlord commonly referred to as “Cash for Keys”. This is when the landlord will agree to make a nominal payment to the tenant to encourage them to move out, rather than going through the time and legal expense of filing for a formal eviction.  The process for filing evictions costs landlords time, money, and is generally a headache they would rather not deal with.  Done correctly, you can often negotiate with them by offering to save them the hassle and expense of filing an eviction notice by simply giving you a small cash incentive that you will use to expedite your departure.
more info. on Cash-For-Keys arrangements:

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The post How should you negotiate with a landlord when facing evictions? appeared first on Allmand Law Firm, PLLC.

5 days 7 hours ago


As many readers of our blog and emails, Congress passed a new bankruptcy law known as Subchapter V. Information about that law can be found at our blog Subchapter V is similar to chapter 13 of the bankruptcy code but it can only be used by a business, not an individual.Some creative uses of Subchapter V are  to discharge repayment of a PPP loan, to reject a commercial lease which a tenant no longer wants to occupy, or to reject unfavorable agreements.    Subchapter V became effective on February 19, 2020 and several decisions have been announced by various bankruptcy courts which are favorable to Debtors. First, if a company filed bankruptcy under Chapter 11 can they convert their case to a case under Subchapter V? Yes. In re Progressive Solutions, Inc., No. 8:18-bk-14277-SC, 2020 WL 975464, at *5 (Bankr. C.D. Cal. February 21, 2020) (small business designated Chapter 11 debtor could retroactively proceed under Subchapter V after the case had been pending approximately 15 months).
-In re Glass Contractors, Inc., No. 20-40185 (Bankr. E.D. Tex. February 25, 2020) (small business designated Chapter 11 debtor could retroactively proceed under Subchapter V after the case had been pending approximately 1 month).-In re Body Transit, Inc., 613 B.R. 400 (Bankr. E.D. Pa. March 24, 2020) (small business designated Chapter 11 debtor could retroactively proceed under Subchapter V when the case had been pending 48 days).Second, can a debtor file under Subchapter V, if the debtor is not currently engaged in business? Yes, if a majority of its debt was business debt. -In re Wright, No. 20-01035-HB, 2020 WL 2193240, at *3 (Bankr. D.S.C. April 27, 2020) (debtor who was not currently engaged in business operations qualified as “small business debtor” where 56% of its debt amounted to residual business debt).Third, does a Subchapter 5 Bankruptcy Trustee have the automatic right to retain counsel? No. -In re Penland Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc., No. 20-01795-5-DMW, 2020 WL 3124585, at *_ (Bankr. E.D.N.C. June 11, 2020) (Bankruptcy Petition #: 20-01795-5-DMW) (denying Subchapter V trustee’s application to retain counsel, which was filed as a matter of course, because the need for legal representation had not arisen). A Subchapter V trustee may not retain legal counsel automatically like a bankruptcy trustee can do in a Chapter 7 case.

Clients, accountants or lawyers who have questions regarding Subchapter V should contact Jim Shenwick at 212 541 6224  or

1 week 13 hours ago

Democratic Platform Promises Good New for Student Loans The upcoming elections might help. Student loans are in a special category that bankruptcy law can hardly touch.  That’s likely to change after the November 2020 elections. The platform of the Democratic National Convention, says this: Democrats will restore the prior standard in bankruptcy law to allow […]
The post November Elections Might Help With Your Student Loans by Robert Weed appeared first on Northern VA Bankruptcy Lawyer Robert Weed.

1 week 2 days ago

This article originally appeared in the New York Times on August 3, 2020
One-Third of New York’s Small Businesses May Be Gone ForeverSmall-business owners said they have exhausted federal and local assistance and see no end in sight after months of sharp revenue drops. Now, many are closing their shops and restaurants for good.

William Garfield, the owner of Glady’s, a Caribbean restaurant in Brooklyn, said he decided to close after his landlord told him he would need to start paying his full monthly rent.
William Garfield, the owner of Glady’s, a Caribbean restaurant in Brooklyn, said he decided to close after his landlord told him he would need to start paying his full monthly rent.

In early March, Glady’s, a Caribbean restaurant in Brooklyn, was bringing in about $35,000 a week in revenue. The Bank Street Bookstore, a 50-year-old children’s shop in Manhattan, was preparing for busy spring and summer shopping seasons. And Busy Bodies, a play space for children in Brooklyn, had just wrapped up months of packed classes with long waiting lists.

Five months later, those once prosperous businesses have evaporated. Glady’s and Busy Bodies are closed for good and Bank Street, one of the city’s last children’s bookstores, will shut down permanently in August.

The three are victims of the economic destruction that threatens to derail New York City’s recovery from the financial collapse triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

An expanding universe of distinctive small businesses — from coffee shops to dry cleaners to hardware stores — that give New York’s neighborhoods their unique personalities and are key to the city’s economy are starting to topple.

More than 2,800 businesses in New York City have permanently closed since March 1, according to data from Yelp, the business listing and review site, a higher number than in any other large American city.

About half the closings have been in Manhattan, where office buildings have been hollowed out, its wealthier residents have left for second homes and tourists have stayed away.

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When the pandemic eventually subsides, roughly one-third of the city’s 240,000 small businesses may never reopen, according to a report by the Partnership for New York City, an influential business group. So far, those businesses have shed 520,000 jobs.

While New York is home to more Fortune 500 headquarters than any city in the country, small businesses are the city’s backbone. They represent roughly 98 percent of the employers in the city and provide jobs to more than 3 million people, which is about half of its work force, according to the city.

When New York’s economic lockdown started in March the hope was that the closing of businesses would be temporary and many could weather the financial blow.

But the devastation to small businesses has become both widespread and permanent as the economy reopens at a slow pace. Emergency federal aid has failed to provide enough of a cushion, people remain leery of resuming normal lives and the threat of a second wave of the virus looms.

The first to fall were businesses, especially retail shops, that depended on New York City’s massive flow of commuters. And months into the crisis, established businesses that once seemed invincible, including some that had ambitious expansion plans, are cratering under a sustained collapse in consumer spending.

One business that will not reopen is Bank Street Bookstore, a nonprofit on the Upper West Side run by the Bank Street College of Education. More than 90 percent of its revenue was in-store sales, mostly to neighborhood parents, the college’s students and elementary schoolteachers.

“We had to keep reinventing the business every week to two weeks, based on new guidelines,” Caitlyn Morrissey, the store’s manager, said about the past months. “Our cornerstone was in-person sales, not web sales.”

Image“Our cornerstone was in-person sales, not web sales,” said Caitlyn Morrissey, the manager of Bank Street Bookstore, a children’s book shop that is closing for good.
“Our cornerstone was in-person sales, not web sales,” said Caitlyn Morrissey, the manager of Bank Street Bookstore, a children’s book shop that is closing for good. Credit...Amr Alfiky/The New York Times
Unlike larger firms, small businesses — bookstores, bodegas, bars, dental practices, gyms and day care centers — typically do not have the financial resources to overcome a few rough days or weeks, let alone months.

There is no clearinghouse for reliable data on the number of small businesses that have closed in New York or nationwide. The actual number of permanent closings in New York is probably higher than Yelp’s tally since it largely focuses on consumer-facing businesses. A small business is generally defined by economists as those with under 500 employees.

From March 1 to the end of April, during the height of the pandemic in New York City, businesses in the city that use the payment company Square saw their revenues drop by half, according to an analysis the company provided to The New York Times. The most significant revenue declines were in the Bronx and Manhattan, the company said.

As part of a $2.2 trillion emergency aid package adopted in March, the federal government set aside about $500 billion in small-business loans to keep workers employed and companies afloat. But business owners said they have spent all or most of their loans, paying salaries and bills, including rent.

More help for small businesses is part of negotiations as the Trump administration and Republicans and Democrats in Congress try to iron out another rescue package.

While the worst of the pandemic in the United States struck New York City first, small businesses across the country have been clobbered.

Between early March and early May, roughly 110,000 small businesses nationwide shut down, according to researchers at Harvard.

In New York, the restaurant and hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit. More than 80 percent of the city’s restaurants and bars did not pay full rent in June, according to the NYC Hospitality Alliance.

Among those restaurants was Glady’s in Brooklyn. Its revenue plummeted by two-thirds since March, to about $12,000 per week in June. The majority of its sales were from tropical rum drinks served through a side window of the restaurant.

The owner, William Garfield, said he decided to close in June before officials started allowing outdoor dining after his landlord said he had to start paying the full monthly rent, $8,000, starting in July. Mr. Garfield said the healthy revenue from drink sales was still not enough to make ends meet.

“We were thriving,” said Mr. Garfield, 32, said about Glady’s business before March. “I would disagree with the sentiment that if someone had a thriving business they should be able to survive this.”

Mr. Garfield has another restaurant, Mo’s Original, and a bar next door, both of which he plans to keep open. His staff among his businesses has shrunk from 56 to seven.

He has spent almost all of his small-business stimulus loan, known as Payroll Protection Assistance, about $72,000. His insurance company denied his business interruption claim, citing New York State’s order that restaurants were “essential businesses” and could stay open.

“It’s the most frustrating situation because it’s not about passion anymore or the work you put in or the hours you put in,” he said. “It’s all about the mitigating circumstances that are out of your control.”

In recent weeks, “For Lease” signs have started to appear on storefronts on streets throughout New York, evidence that businesses that tried to ride out the initial months or abruptly shift to new online business models could no longer survive.

Business owners said they are at a tipping point. They have exhausted their federal, state and local aid. And while some landlords have offered breaks on rent, some business owners say others have been less flexible.

Owners say they also have to cope with constant uncertainty — not just the threat of a resurgence of the virus but also having navigate shifting reopening plans.

Restaurants in New York City were expecting to restart indoor dining in July. Owners bought food and supplies for what they thought would be larger crowds. But days before the restrictions were to be lifted, officials halted the plans, citing rising cases in other states that had allowed indoor dining.

Nearly a third of the 2,800 businesses in New York City that have permanently closed were restaurants, according to Yelp.

The remaining businesses represent a broad swath of the city’s economy, including small law firms, beauty stores, spas and cleaning companies.

“As a small-business owner, I’m surprised that more businesses have not closed yet,” said Andrea Dillon, the owner of Busy Bodies, a day care she opened on Fulton Avenue in Brooklyn in 2016.

Ms. Dillon said she noticed the ripple effect of the pandemic in late February, a few weeks before the city shut down. Parents and caregivers were canceling upcoming birthday parties and classes.

By early March, she realized that her entire business model — in which up to 70 children and adults cram into a play space with toys and live music — could not coexist with the coronavirus.

She asked her landlord for a break on her $6,000 a month rent, but he refused. Ms. Dillon said she decided in early April to close down.

“The face of New York City storefronts, they will not be forever changed,” she said. “But they will be changed for the foreseeable future.”

While her management company did not offer a break on rent, another landlord, Brian Steinwurtzel, said he was doing just that for some of his roughly 2,000 tenants in New York City, many of them small businesses. Mr. Steinwurtzel, the co-chief executive at GFP Real Estate, said he helped them apply for federal assistance and lowered their rents while business is down.

“It doesn’t make any sense to kick them out or fight with them as long as we are all working together,” Mr. Steinwurtzel said. “We believe we are all in it together, and we all have to help each other out.”

The most vulnerable small businesses in New York City might be those operated by minority or female owners. Recent studies have shown that these were largely shut out of federal aid. There are about 10,500 business that New York City has certified as minority- or female-owned.

A survey of such businesses released by the New York City Comptroller’s Office found that 30 percent of them believed they were likely to fold within the next 30 days.

Among those businesses is ThroughMyKitchen, a catering and snack company owned by Evelyn Echevarria. Before March, she derived most of her income from selling goods at street fairs and catering. Her last event was in March, catering a 120-person wedding in South Carolina.

She is surviving on unemployment benefits, but the largest portion of that, the federal stimulus of $600 per week, expired at the end of July. She also received $2,000 in assistance from the city.

“It’s been very, very hard,” Ms. Echevarria, 58, said. “The small businesses won’t be able to survive this. This, to me and many others, is devastating. It’s devastating.”

Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.

1 week 1 day ago

FinancesOnce a Chapter 7 debtor receives a discharge of personal debts, creditors are enjoined from taking action to collect, recover, or offset such debts. However, unlike personal debts, liens held by secured creditors “ride through” bankruptcy. The underlying debt secured by the lien may be extinguished, but as long as the lien is valid it survives the bankruptcy. Read More ›
Tags: 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, Chapter 7

1 week 3 days ago

A new report entitled Understanding Evictions in Omaha written by Creighton University professors Pierce Greenberg and and Gary Fischer outline the devastating impact evictions have on the Omaha community.
Evictions cause a loss of “social and community capital.”  High eviction rates are related to increasing crime rates and cause poor educational performance in schools. They cause a severance of supporting relationships that exist in all neighborhoods and can set off a cycle of social destruction that is difficult to break.

Residential stability begets a kind of psychological stability, which allows people to invest in their home and social relationships. It begets school stability, which increases the chances that children will excel and graduate. And it begets community stability, which encourages neighbors to form strong bonds and take care of their block. – Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted

The report describes Omaha’s eviction scene with many statistics and observations:

  • 39,346 eviction lawsuits were filed in 8 years between 2012 to 2019.  That equals 410 evictions per month.
  • 28,226 of those lawsuits resulted in a family being evicted.
  • Omaha has a 3.66% Eviction Rate per 100 rental units per year.
  • Omaha ranks 271st out of 274 U.S. cities on a measure of racial inclusion according to data from the Urban Institute.
  • Evictions predominately occur in older areas of Omaha with higher rates of low income housing and minority populations.
  •  Many eviction “hot spots” represent large apartment complexes or public housing facilities.
  • The interconnected nature of race, income, and evictions helps illustrate how important housing and residential stability is to reducing racial and economic disparities in Omaha.
  • The number of evictions in an elementary school attendance area correlates with student learning outcomes.
  • Only 1 out of 394 defendants were represented by an Omaha attorney.

The connection between high rates of evictions and societal problems in education, crime, jobs, income and family stability is overwhelming.  And, these Creighton professors have some suggestions to combat that problem.

  • Focus on eviction hotspots.  Omaha Housing Authority represents 7% of the eviction lawsuits filed in Omaha. Focus should be given to finding alternative dispute resolutions to reduce eviction rates.
  • Right–of-Counsel-Programs.  New York City initiated a program in 2017 to appoint attorneys to represent low-income tenants in eviction proceedings.  84% of defendants who were provided counsel were able to remain in their residence.

Will filing bankruptcy stop an and eviction in Nebraska?
Filing any type of bankruptcy in Nebraska temporarily stops an eviction.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases are short cases completed in roughly 100 days.  There is no payment plan associated with these cases and there is no power to cure a rent default, but the filing of a case will temporarily delay an eviction for probably 30 days.
Chapter 13 cases have more power to address eviction issues.  In addition to imposing a temporary stay of an eviction lawsuit, chapter 13 plans have the power to cure a lease default.
Section 1322(7) of the Bankruptcy Code allows a debtor’s payment plan to assume an unexpired lease and cure a default, however, this right is subject to Section 365 of the Bankruptcy Code, which provides:

  • If there has been a default in an executory contract or unexpired lease of the debtor, the trustee may not assume such contract or lease unless, at the time of assumption of such contract or lease, the trustee—

    • Cures, or provides adequate assurance that the trustee will promptly cure, such default  . . .
    • Compensates, or provides adequate assurance that the trustee will promptly compensate, a party other than the debtor to such contract or lease, for any actual pecuniary loss to such party resulting from such default; and
    • Provides adequate assurance of future performance under such contract or lease.

So, an Omaha bankruptcy attorney can help tenants to stop an eviction lawsuit IF they have the ability to cure the default promptly and to make future payments on time.  How prompt must the cure payment be? There is no hard rule, but I suspect curing a default over 60 to 90 days is probably considered a prompt payment.

1 week 6 days ago

This story originally appeared in the New York Daily News on July 20, 2020 ,


Coronavirus has left the city’s yellow taxi business gasping for breath.

Ridership was down 92% in June — and just one in five of the city’s 13,500 yellow cabs even hit the streets, according to data the city Taxi and Limousine Commission released Wednesday after months of delays.

When New York became the epicenter of the outbreak in April, the amount of money yellow cab drivers grossed before expenses was down to $54 per day, a decline of 70% from the $176 per day they grossed in February. Their gross rebounded to $105 per day in June, but was still 47% lower than the $195 cabbies took in daily in June 2019.

Uber, Lyft and other app-based car services also hurt — but their drivers’ losses weren’t as steep.

Nearly 50,000 app-based drivers stopped working between February and June, which helped driver pay remain stable.

TLC data shows app-based drivers who kept working through the pandemic earned just 5% less in June than they did the same month last year. In June they were doing roughly 251,696 rides per day, nearly 14 times the 18,325 rides yellow cabs saw.

App-based drivers are still doing more business than the the 217,000 daily rides yellow cabs recorded in February, before the pandemic.

“It’s quite remarkable how Uber and Lyft have bounced back to a degree, while taxis have much less,” said Bruce Schaller, a transportation consultant. “What you see in the numbers is more of the same of what you saw pre-pandemic, with Uber and Lyft doing much better than the yellow taxis both as an industry and for drivers individually.”

A woman wears a face mask near the Port Authority in Midtown Manhattan in March.

A woman wears a face mask near the Port Authority in Midtown Manhattan in March. (Luiz C. Ribeiro/for New York Daily News)

Owners of New York City’s taxi medallions — which give drivers the exclusive right to take street hails in the busiest areas of Manhattan — were in trouble before the pandemic hit.

Medallion owners faced an average debt in January of about $700,000 — a figure that began to balloon in 2014 when the app-based companies Uber and Lyft began to siphon rides away from cabs.

Now the outlook for their business is even worse.

“If this isn’t a wake up call for the city and its leaders, then we will know who was responsible for ending this industry and I still wouldn’t say it was COVID,” said Bhairavi Desai, president of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance and a medallion owner.

More people working from home means fewer people commuting by yellow taxis. And with air travel down 85%, fewer people are visiting New York for business or tourism — meaning cabbies can’t count on fares and tips from out-of-towners.

The pandemic has forced nearly 9,000 yellow taxi drivers off the streets since March, giving them little income to pay off their piling bills.

Medallion owners in January called for the city to help find “mission-driven investors” who could help bring down some debt. Now, with the nation facing a severe recession, that option appears to be off the table.

Yellow Taxis are seen parked on 37th Street and 11th Avenue on April 6.

Yellow Taxis are seen parked on 37th Street and 11th Avenue on April 6. (Luiz C. Ribeiro/for New York Daily News)

App-based drivers who stopped working during the pandemic also face uncertainty.

Varinder Kumar, 47, stopped driving for Lyft in March out of fear for his health.

Kumar said he plans to return to work next month if Congress does not renew the $600 in weekly unemployment benefits he’s received from the federal government since April. The extra money is slated to stop coming on Friday.

Varinder Kumar, a Lyft Driver who left work in March out of fear for his health.

“I was making less with unemployment than I was when I was driving in February,” Kumar said. “But I have a family and I need to keep them safe. I won’t make the same money as I did before the pandemic if I go back to work either.”

“If things don’t work out maybe I’ll move to another state that is not so expensive,” he added.

Schaller expects many more app-based drivers will begin to return to the streets in the coming months, which could lead to a reduction in their average pay.

Unlike yellow cab drivers, if Kumar returns to work he would benefit from the city’s minimum wage and paid sick leave rules. He also won’t face the insurmountable debt that taxi medallion owners are having an even harder time paying off due to dismal ridership.

But Schaller said the crisis could bring an ugly reckoning to the yellow taxi medallion business: It could force many medallion owners who are still hanging on to file for bankruptcy, and effectively reset the entire industry.

“The question is: Does this huge drop end up basically flushing all the bad debt down the toilet?” Schaller said. “The thing about the taxi industry is, it could be healthy if you just started over. Bankruptcy could give you a fresh start.”

2 weeks 2 days ago

This story, Landlords Jump the Gun as Eviction Moratorium Wanes. originally appeared on New York Times on July 23, 2020.

The CARES Act temporarily protects millions of renters from being kicked out of their homes for nonpayment. Filings aren’t supposed to resume until after Friday.

Legal Aid lawyers say a tenant received an eviction notice from this apartment complex in Tucker, Ga., even though she’s protected under the CARES Act.

Legal Aid lawyers say a tenant received an eviction notice from this apartment complex in Tucker, Ga., even though she’s protected under the CARES Act.Credit...Melissa Golden for The New York Times

By Matthew Goldstein July 23, 2020

The four-month pause that has protected millions of Americans from eviction cases is set to expire at the end of this week. But that hasn’t stopped landlords across the country from trying to get a head start forcing renters out.

Landlords in Tucson, Ariz., filed dozens of eviction cases last month despite the federal moratorium, which was put in place because of the coronavirus crisis. Legal aid lawyers had to go to court to stop the eviction of a San Antonio renter who had lost her job during a citywide stay-at-home order. And in Omaha, a court found that a struggling renter’s attempted eviction had violated the emergency law.

As the number of Covid-19 cases has surged across the country, a disturbing trend has emerged: landlords commencing eviction proceedings even though the CARES Act relief law currently protects about 12 million tenants living in qualifying properties.

Yolanda Jackson, a special-education paraprofessional in the DeKalb County schools outside of Atlanta, lost her job in March when the schools shut down. Ms. Jackson, a mother of two, has yet to receive an unemployment check, despite confirmation that she was approved, and hasn’t been able to pay her rent. A charitable organization agreed to cover her missed payments, but so far the manager of her complex, LaVista Crossing Apartments, hasn’t sent the necessary documentation to accept it.

“I have tried everything in my power not to get to this point,” Ms. Jackson said. “I’ve been here seven years, and they will not work with me. I am just stressed out and trying to hold it together.”

She received an eviction notice in late June, and the manager said in a court filing that the property wasn’t covered by the federal moratorium. But on Tuesday, lawyers for Legal Aid in Atlanta decided to take her case after finding that the complex is in fact listed as having a federally backed mortgage — making it covered by the CARES Act moratorium.

Yolanda Jackson, still waiting for unemployment benefits after losing her job during the pandemic, is trying to fend off eviction from LaVista Crossing.Credit...Melissa Golden for The New York Times

Lawyers for LaVista Crossing did not respond to messages seeking comment.

At least two other residents of the apartment complex have been served with eviction notices for nonpayment, said Lindsey Siegel with Atlanta Legal Aid. “Many Legal Aid clients are facing evictions simply because their unemployment benefits haven’t come through,” she said.

State and local governments have also issued eviction moratoriums, but the CARES Act is the furthest reaching, covering as many as 12.3 million renters living in an apartment complex or single-family home financed with a federally backed mortgage. But like other moratoriums, it’s about to expire: After Friday, landlords can begin filing eviction notices for failure to pay rent. It will be at least 30 days after that before any tenants are kicked out.

The moratorium has been a lifeline for millions of unemployed people, allowing renters waiting on slow-to-arrive aid to stay in their homes and make up the payments later.

But the far-ranging and hastily assembled CARES Act — which, among things, had provisions for direct relief payments, a temporary expansion of unemployment insurance and hundreds of billions of dollars in small-business aid — does not penalize landlords who violate the moratorium.

Paula Cino, a vice president for policy and government affairs at the National Multifamily Housing Council, a landlord group, said there had been some legitimate confusion at the outset with the federal moratorium and local and state eviction pauses.

“That said, I wouldn’t minimize the fact that there is the potential for bad actors in this space,” she said. “Even if they weren’t initially taking advantage of the system, they have the responsibility to better understand.”

Once an eviction case enters the legal system, it can have lasting consequences: Even a wrongfully filed action can be difficult to remove from court records and keep turning up when renters go through background checks.

“An eviction judgment stays on a tenant’s credit report for seven years, is grounds for wage garnishment and makes it more difficult for a tenant to find future housing,” said Stacy Butler, a law professor at the University of Arizona who has been tracking violations of the CARES Act.

Even with a moratorium in place, landlords have been serving eviction notices in places across the country, housing advocates say.

Even with a moratorium in place, landlords have been serving eviction notices in places across the country, housing advocates say.Credit...Melissa Golden for The New York Times

The moratorium bars the start of evictions for nonpayment for about 12 million renters in properties that have federally backed mortgages.

The moratorium bars the start of evictions for nonpayment for about 12 million renters in properties that have federally backed mortgages.Credit...Melissa Golden for The New York Times

The scope of the problem is elusive. Wrongly evicted renters might not bother trying to challenge their landlords, sometimes because of their immigration status, or because they do not know they have the right.

But wrongful evictions have been reported across the country. The Private Equity Stakeholder Project, a consumer advocacy group, found more than 100 filings in apparent violation of the CARES Act in Arizona, Texas, Florida and Massachusetts.

And in a survey of 100 legal aid lawyers in 38 states, by the National Housing Law Project, all but nine said they knew of attempts at illegal evictions in their cities. The problem prompted the group to create a draft complaint to challenge a violation of the CARES Act moratorium.

Judges have been troubled, too. The Texas Supreme Court issued a statewide order on Tuesday requiring landlords to certify whether the CARES Act applies to an eviction case, and Arizona’s Supreme Court took a similar action earlier this month.

Lawmakers in Washington are debating another relief law — including possible stimulus payments, aid for governments and schools, and a decision on what to do about the extra $600 weekly unemployment benefit — and housing advocates want it to have more help for renters.

The landlord group is in favor of help for tenants, too. The National Multifamily Housing Council said it favored the creation of an emergency rental assistance program of up to $100 billion. But the organization opposes a “protracted extension of a federal eviction moratorium.”

If the moratorium is extended in another relief bill — it is part of the $3 trillion package passed by House Democrats — there are calls from housing advocates to give it enough teeth to keep landlords from trying to skirt the rules.

“There should also be clearly delineated enforcement mechanisms and steep penalties for landlords who flout the law,” said Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which has set up a webpage to help tenants determine if their rental is covered by the CARES Act.

With some forms of aid slow to arrive, the eviction moratorium has allowed struggling tenants to stay in their homes.

With some forms of aid slow to arrive, the eviction moratorium has allowed struggling tenants to stay in their homes.Credit...Melissa Golden for The New York Times

Nelson Mock, an attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, said lawyers across Texas had seen “landlords trying to sidestep the issue.”

Juanita Herrera DeLeon, 57, who lost her job in March during San Antonio’s stay-at-home order, had to fend off an eviction attempt despite the CARES Act moratorium.

Soon after Ms. DeLeon lost her job, the manager of her apartment complex, the Olmos Club Apartments, tried to lock her out by installing a device on her doorknob. It was removed after she complained to the police, but she said the complex had tried other tactics to get her to leave, like posting on her front door a three-day notice to vacate the premises.

That was when she sought help from RioGrande Legal Aid. In a statement filed with her lawsuit, she said the property manager “did not leave me anything in writing about locking me out” before the first attempt.

The suit was recently settled; Mr. Mock said he was not permitted to discuss the terms.

Jason Adelstein, a lawyer for the Olmos Club Apartments, said, “The dispute was settled between the parties, my client denies any wrongdoing, and due to the terms of the settlement agreement between the parties there can be no further comment.”

The issue of CARES Act violations may be worst in Arizona.

In June alone, at least 80 eviction proceedings that were started in the local courts in Pima County appeared to violate the CARES Act, according to research by a team that included Ms. Butler, the law professor in Tucson. Many were filed by small landlords, and it’s hard to know whether the filings were intentional or a mistake, she said.

One property owner, however, was responsible for filing more than a dozen cases against residents of the Cordova Village apartment complex on Tucson’s south side.

The landlord, Equilibrium Properties, which operates several apartment buildings in Tucson and Washington, D.C., said in an emailed statement that the eviction filings had been made in error. The company, which received at least $150,000 under the Paycheck Protection Program established by the CARES Act, said it had moved to vacate the proceedings and was “rescinding all notices for nonpayment that have been given to tenants.”

“Moving forward,” the company said, “we will take every effort to comply with the CARES Act.”