Matt Drouin is a landlord in the Rochester area. He says some of his tenants haven’t paid rent in over a year—many misinterpreting the eviction moratorium as a free pass.
“It was seen as ‘I don’t have to pay rent there’s really no consequences for it,’” he said. “There’s bad players out there, slumlords, but there’s also responsible housing providers that are getting crushed right now.”
The bill doesn’t mean renters don’t have to pay rent, it just prevents evictions for tenants who have endured COVID-related hardships if they successfully submit a hardship declaration. The declaration must explain the source of hardship.
Drouin says with tenants going months without paying rent, some of his colleagues are going under. That money goes towards mortgage and insurance payments, maintenance and repairs. Even as the current bill extends a moratorium on foreclosures for landlords, Drouin says this isn’t relief for them, as the money is still adding up.
“The tenants have been the recipient of this money but it hasn’t been going towards housing it’s been going to other things,” he said. “Tenants haven’t been prioritizing their housing needs.”
Drouin said there’s a reason evictions happen, and the moratorium is creating a cycle of boarded-up properties.
“Typically when a tenant falls this far behind, the landlord’s first priority is to get possession of the apartment back so they can re-rent to someone who has the willingness to pay for housing,” he said. “All they want is warrant for eviction to get housing back, fix it up and rent it to someone more than willing to pay for that housing.”
Assemblyman Demond Meeks supports this moratorium. He says if someone can’t pay rent – chances are they’re also out of work. This, largely due to the pandemic.
“When we look at hospitality and restaurants and bars, they’re struggling right now,” he said.
Meeks says the intent of the bill is to offer help for both landlords and tenants – and this is just the first of many steps. For now, he’s working to bring more resources and funding for both ends.
“We recognize the challenge of landlords, and are committing and advocating for additional resources,” Meeks said. “We’re putting pressure on the state government, pressure on ourselves as state government and pressure on federal gov to say, ‘hey New Yorkers need more.'”
Meeks says right now there is no measure in the federal stimulus package offering aid to landlords.
The moratorium does not terminate evictions entirely. They can still happen if a tenant doesn’t submit a hardship declaration, or is creating a safety or health hazard to those living around them.
“We have a commitment not to see families thrown out in the streets,” said Meeks. “Yes we realize in protecting against foreclosures it could mean pushing payments due in this crisis back beyond, it may extend the length of time landlords have to pay on a mortgage … Our key goal in passing this legislation was protecting New Yorkers in this moment, keeping them in household, and for landlords still be able to keep property without it being snatched away from them by banks.”
Meeks says there’s no guarantee to help pay back-rent for landlords, but it depends on the ability to generate different revenue streams. “If the resources are there it could be a possibility, but only the future will tell,” he said. “From what I hear from most representation, we are taking heed to the fact that landlords are hurting and we have to look for some revenue to assist them.”