Landlords want evictions to resume as protestors advocate for the opposite

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ALBANY, N.Y. (WETM) — Over 225,000 tenants across New York are facing eviction. With the eviction moratorium ending in just a few days, tenant advocacy groups are protesting for an extension on the moratorium, while landlords plead for its end.

“Fight fight fight! Housing is a human right!” Protestors chanted at 5 a.m. Wednesday morning. Banging drums and yelling through megaphones outside of the Governor’s Mansion in Albany, protestors called it a “wake-up call.”

On the other hand, small landlords say they’ve gotten the short end of the stick throughout the moratorium. Elmira Landlord Michael Birdges owns five apartments. He said he was overburdened when one of his tenants didn’t pay rent for almost two years. “She owed me $20,000,” he said. “I could not afford $20,000. It was a tremendous burden.”

Many local landlords like Birdges said they haven’t received any income from some renters since March 2020, when the eviction moratorium was set forth by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. They landlords say they were forced to pay bills, taxes, and mortgages out-of-pocket. “Governor Cuomo never said, ‘Don’t pay rent,'” said Rick Paul, Owner of Rep Home Sales & Services.

In the worst cases, some report foreclosures. “Our clients are going into foreclosure where they themselves are unable to get out of this situation,” said Jaime Michelle Cain, an attorney representing landlords in New York. She said the goal is to keep local landlords in their cities, but what’s happening is the exact opposite.

“Landlords who have been in the business in their home towns locally for 20 to 30 years, they’re just putting up their hands and they’re selling to out of town investors,” Cain said. “It’s scary to watch.”

But tenants aren’t living in the lap of luxury. “I have tenants in the building who are facing the option of going to a [homeless] shelter with their kids,” Johnny Rivera, New York Tenant Organizer. “It doesn’t make sense to evict families into the streets in this cold winter.”

The pandemic is still taking its financial toll on many. “A lot of the tenants that I know have fallen behind on rent for no direct reason other than the pandemic,” said Rivera. “Nonetheless, people are trying to get into the economy that threw them out.”

Foremost, renters and tenant advocacy groups are pushing for an extension of the eviction moratorium until June 2022. They are also advocating for the statewide passage of a Good Cause Eviction Bill requiring landlords to present a good cause or fair reasoning to justify evictions. “There should be no reason that landlords should just be able to throw you out for any reason at all,” Joel Feingold, Member, Crown Heights Tenant Union. “We need to get rid of evictions without cause.”

If passed, it would also regulate rent increases and require landlords to renew leases for most tenants.

Regardless of what happens in three days, the damage is done. The housing market in New York has been turned around and upside down. “The will to want to own property in the state of New York has been shaken,” said Cain.

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