Leveling the Playing Field in Commercial Evictions

A New York City Councilman will soon propose a bill that would give small businesses facing eviction access to free (pro bono) attorneys. The Wall Street Journal reports that Mark Levine will introduce the bill this week, based on a similar program for residential tenants.

Commercial evictions increased over the last two years in New York City. The proposed law would only apply to small independent retail or office tenants whose owners’ household income meets specific guidelines.

A comparable program for residential tenants called Right to Counsel has helped over 30,000 households over the past year. Right to Counsel provides legal assistance for issues such as harassment by landlords. REBNY President John Banks expressed support for the rationale behind the proposal, according to the WSJ, that small independently owned business tenants facing commercial evictions receive adequate legal services

Update: This proposal did not pass, but during COVID, New York City enacted many programs to help small businesses get back on their feet. Some of this assistance included the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). The NYC Department of Small Business Services assists businesses through seminars, mentoring, and coaching. It also publishes checklists and guides for small businesses specific to their particular industry. Restaurants are a primary focus NYC Department of Small Business Services because of the many licensing and compliance issues facing them.