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Republican State Senators Seek Help For Landlords

State Senators James Tedisco and Daphne Jordan are joined by local landlords in Halfmoon
Lucas Willard
State Senators James Tedisco and Daphne Jordan are joined by local landlords in Halfmoon

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court allowed a federal moratorium on evictions — extended in March by President Biden — to remain in place. Meantime, a pair of Republican state Senators in New York –  which has its own eviction moratorium in place — are seeking to assist struggling local landlords.

New York’s pandemic-related eviction moratorium has been in place since March 2020. On May 4th, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an extension to keep the moratorium on residential evictions until August 31st.

Under New York’s law, tenants must sign a financial hardship declaration to prevent an eviction. Landlords can evict tenants who otherwise create public safety or health hazards.

The law also applies to homeowners and small landlords – those with 10 or fewer dwellings can file a similar declaration to prevent a foreclosure.

But the landlords, who rely on rent payments for income, say they are struggling too. Rose Karame, who owns one rental property in Troy, says despite the moratoriums, says her expenses are piling up  – including utilities and taxes.

“We can’t afford to wait any longer. I can’t keep on taking money out of my kids’ college funds…it’s just unheard of,” said Karame.

On June 1st, New York State opened its Emergency Rental Assistance Program online portal. But State Senators Daphne Jordan and Jim Tedisco, Republicans from the Capital Region, say the rollout has been flawed.

Jordan says the ERAP program has “unrealistic” requirements…

“It’s time for the governor to do the right thing. Help streamline the Emergency Rental Assistance Program so that small landlords can continue to earn their living and be a vital part of the state’s economy,” said Jordan.

Those assembled Wednesday in Halfmoon complained about a confusing application process, but also a lack of cooperation from tenants. Under the ERAP program, landlords and property owners need to provide tax and financial information.

Chris Morris, a co-founder of the group Schenectady Landlords Influencing Change, said after months of non-payments, relationships between tenants and landlords have deteriorated, making cooperation difficult.

“If you think that your tenant is just not paying because they don’t choose to, and they are closing the door on you, and they are not wanting to hear about you, they’re not responding to messages and all that…You know that you’re in trouble because you don’t have the money, but you’re in trouble because you don’t have that relationship and you can’t get them out,” said Morris.

Morris is also expecting a court backlog when the eviction moratorium is lifted, further complicating things.

Senator Tedisco says without additional action, it will put the landlords out of business, creating a ripple effect in local economies.

“It’s the small businesses who create jobs. They won’t be able to do that or stay here if we don’t allow them to be semi-successful and make somewhat of a meaningful profit, and that doesn’t exist right now,” said Tedisco.

Tedisco, along with Jordan, has introduced a bill to create a loan-to-grant program to help landlords cover missed payments during the pandemic emergency. Under the legislation, if the tenants pay overdue rent, the landlords could then repay the state. If the tenants do not pay, then the loans would turn into a grant.

However, with Democratic supermajorities in both houses of the state legislature, Tedisco is dubious as to how much support it would gain — and whether lawmakers would be interested in debating the bill if a special session is called.

“I hate to say some of this political, let’s face it, there’s more tenants than landlords. But that’s not what the future’s going to need for people who need affordable housing. It’s short-sightedness if you think you’re going to help find people affordable housing when you won’t let landlords exist,” said Tedisco.

Jordan says her conference is ready to return to Albany after the session ended for the year in mid-June.

“We mean business. We want to do our job. And we’re ready to do that any day,” said Jordan.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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