Can you move in NYC during the coronavirus outbreak?

March 27, 2020

While most of life seems to be put on hold at the moment, there are a few tasks that can’t be avoided. This includes moving apartments, typically a dreadful experience for New Yorkers with or without an ongoing pandemic. But moving companies are considered an essential service, according to New York City and State officials. Ahead, find out what you need to know about moving in NYC during the coronavirus outbreak, from the extra protocols movers are taking to your rights as a tenant.

There are currently no state or city restrictions on moving.

Naturally, New Yorkers may have to move during the coronavirus outbreak, whether their lease is up or they can’t stay in their current situation, City Hall spokeswoman Jane Meyer told 6sqft. “Understanding that some people need to move, movers are considered essential workers, do what you need to do,” Meyer said. “Just do it as quickly as you can, interacting with as few people as you can.”

But to guarantee the safety of everyone, public health experts say the most important way to “flatten the curve” and help curb the spread of the coronavirus is to stay home and significantly reduce social interactions. This could mean putting your move on hold, if possible, especially if it requires substantial travel.

“If you have an option in your life to stay put,” Meyer continued, “and you don’t have to move, and you can extend your lease, that is a better option.”

Movers are considered essential workers.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week declared New York on Pause” and closed 100 percent of non-essential businesses across the state. The executive order had many New Yorkers wondering if moving companies would be considered essential during the outbreak. According to official guidance issued by the state on Friday, moving companies fall under essential transport infrastructure and can continue to operate.

The American Moving & Storage Association has released guidance for both customers and companies operating during the outbreak.

AMSA’s guidance for both moving companies and customers follows recommendations from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The group recommends movers provide estimates virtually, practice good hygiene, and wear gloves while working.

Sven Wechsler of Brooklyn-based Sven Moving was proactive. He made his own hand sanitizer and is providing his crew with some protective equipment, including masks and alcohol wipes. “Most of the buildings we go into are dead quiet, so we’re generally only interacting with customers and maybe a doorman,” Wechsler told 6sqft in an email. “They just leave the keys with the doorman or the door unlocked, and we grab their stuff and go.”

At the end of the day, just one worker from Sven Moving is allowed to return to the office to check out. “It is what it is,” Weschler said. “There’s some risk, but people need to move, whether they’re putting everything into storage and running for the hills or they lost their job and need to downsize on rent.”

The AMSA says recycled boxes should not be used during a move, as the virus can reportedly live on cardboard for up to 24 hours. The group also recommends postponing a move if anyone in the household has a compromised immune system or is over 60 years old.

Storage facilities are implementing additional cleaning measures. 

Also considered an essential service by the state, self-storage facilities remain open for business during the outbreak. Many companies have increased their cleaning protocols and have reduced in-person contact at facilities. For example, CubeSmart on Wednesday rolled out a way for customers to rent and gain access to a storage unit all over the phone and online. The new contactless storage rentals allow customers to skip the counter and head directly to their storage unit.

But, both move-ins and move-outs are up to property management companies and landlords. 

Ultimately, buildings owners and co-op boards will decide whether or not to allow tenants to move in or out of their property. As Brick Underground reported, Solstice Residential Group has banned “moving into and out of the building” as well as the delivery of large packages that require the use of the elevator. While there are no current legal limitations preventing a move, check in with both your current building owner and the owner of your new building before doing so.

What should NYC renters do if a move-in gets canceled?

Property management companies may be more flexible during this unprecedented time, especially for those directly affected by the coronavirus. Consider negotiating for a month-to-month extension of your current lease, which may be more appealing to landlords as fewer apartments are currently being rented.

Resources to use if you can’t afford rent.

As of March 16, eviction proceedings in New York City and statewide have been halted for at least three months and the state’s major utilities companies have temporarily suspended service shutoffs to households. But even if landlords can’t legally kick you out of your apartment, New Yorkers are still required to pay rent. (Lawmakers and tenant rights advocates have called on the state to freeze rents for New Yorkers affected directly by the coronavirus.)

For those seeking assistance to cover rent or other bills, the Human Resources Administration’s “One Shot Deal” program helps people who cannot pay for an expense “due to an unexpected situation or event.”

Guidance from the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants for renters under quarantine or who have tested positive for COVID-19 says landlords cannot evict you if you are under quarantine or if you are sick. “Your landlord cannot discriminate against you, kick you out, or ask you to leave your apartment because of fears and stigma around COVID-19,” the guidance reads. The agency directs those who are facing harassment to report it via the city’s Commission on Human Rights.


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