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Santabarbara Drafts Bill To Assist Landlords

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara speaks with members of SLIC on Wednesday via Zoom
Zoom/Image capture by WAMC
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara speaks with members of SLIC on Wednesday via Zoom

With eviction moratoriums continuing for almost a year, lawmakers in Albany are trying to find ways to assist landlords struggling from a loss of rent during the pandemic. 

Democratic State Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara of Rotterdam is sponsoring a bill that would give small landlords some flexibility when taxes are due.

“It allows municipalities to provide an extension to some of the smaller landlords that are really struggling financially. We’re not talking about the big faceless corporations that have hundreds of thousands of units. We’re talking about people that have a second home or a two-family home, maybe they live in the top or bottom unit,” said Santabarbara.

The 180-day extension would go into effect after the end of a declared emergency, like the pandemic.

Under the current state of emergency, there’s been a moratorium on evictions intended to protect residents whose employment has been affected by the pandemic and cannot pay rent. Those tenants must submit a so-called “hardship declaration.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order does still allow landlords to remove tenants who do not fill out the paperwork or pose a health and safety threat. Currently, the eviction moratorium is set to expire May 1st. The order also prevents tax lien sales and tax foreclosures until May 1st.

Santabarbara’s bill as written now would apply to landlords with fewer than five properties.

“And they’ve been taking it out of their savings account and those savings accounts are running pretty low. The last thing we want to see, now, is these property tax bills come due and these homes go into foreclosure, because that could lead to another crisis, another housing crisis,” said Santabarbara.

Chris Morris, director of the group called Schenectady Landlords Influencing Change, invited the assemblyman to speak during a virtual meeting of the group Wednesday evening.

She’s supportive of the idea, but also wants to see relief payments provided directly to landlords who have gone without income during the pandemic.

‘Any hold off of anything that’s due is not going to help a whole lot because you need the money to begin with. You can’t pay off something if you don’t have the money,” said Morris.

Morris acknowledged the hardships the pandemic has caused on landlords and tenants alike. More than a snowball effect, she likened it to an “avalanche.”

“This is a blow to those who have invested with the purpose of staying invested and working their properties, and living off their properties. And their lives are at stake. And the tenants…tenants need to have homes. This is a serious situation,” said Morris.

Some localities have attempted to provide relief to property owners.

For example, Albany County was among localities with over 200,000 people that applied for and received federal relief funding for landlords in January — $9 million was awarded by the Treasury Department to the county.

Other bills have also been introduced in the state legislature relating to both residential and commercial property owners.

Last month, Republican State Senator Jim Tedisco of Glenville and Republican State Assemblyman Robert Smullen of Johnstown wrote to the governor to ask that he not extend the moratorium on rent payments to landlords past May 1st.

Tedisco has proposed a rental assistance loan-to-grant program for landlords.  

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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