Local landlords join class-action lawsuit on New York eviction moratorium

Local News

(WETM) – Landlords and building owners say enough is enough when it comes to the eviction moratorium and the New York Rental Assistance Program. A class-action lawsuit by several state landlords challenges the Cuomo Administration’s moratorium, which did not allow property owners to question hardship claims made by their tenants.

The Supreme Court heard a similar case just a few weeks ago and sided with the landlords, saying it was unconstitutional. Now, the Hochul-era moratorium extended these benefits but gives more rights to landlords. They can challenge hardship claims and if the tenant made false claims, property owners can evict.

“Tenants were able to check a box basically saying I can’t pay rent. There was nothing we could do as far as evictions were concerned,” Michelle McClelland, property manager with BGM Apartments, told 18 News.

Since the Supreme Court decision came down before the landlords could go to court, Tuesday’s decision was a simple one: revise the petition and refile.

The Hochul Administration promised several benefits to both landlords and tenants in the new eviction moratorium bill, which extends rent assistance through January 15 of next year. Landlords remain skeptical, though, as Federal Rent Relief dollars are still waiting to be distributed. The burden of proof now lies with property managers, who must have evidence showing their tenants are falsely claiming benefits.

“How do I prove this person is working? How do I prove that that person has an illness that prevents them from being safe to look for other housing?” McClelland added.

According to a U.S. Treasury Department Report with data through June 30, New York ranked last in its distribution of Federal rental assistance money from December 2020. Less than one percent had been allocated to landlords. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 5,000 homes across the Southern Tier are behind on their payments. Even with aid from the government, McClelland says back rent is not always paid in full.

She is willing to work with tenants to find a payment plan that works for them and BGM Apartments claims to have made agreements with occupants who struggled during the pandemic.

“It is frustrating because I feel as though the responsibility has been put on us versus New York State,” McClelland concluded.

According to Albany, rent relief is on the way for those who qualified and applied, but landlords and tenants remain stuck in the middle.

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