Q: I own a two-family home in Brooklyn. One tenant has not paid rent since March. I am losing significant rental income on this large garden unit and the tenants have made no attempt to repay the rent or negotiate a moving out or payment plan. But I rely on these bills to pay mortgages, taxes, and alimony – I'm not an institutional landlord with deep pockets who can get through this. Do I have legal recourse? How can this go on for so long without relief?
A: With so many New Yorkers suddenly unable to pay their rent in the face of the pandemic, state and state legislatures have passed several eviction moratoriums, including the last one on December 28th. However, these laws and implementing regulations have provided little relief to landlords who have yet to pay to keep their buildings in operation.
The new law in New York stops almost all evictions for at least 60 days, even if leases have already expired. Renters who sign a document stating that they have experienced a Covid hardship can extend protection until May 1st.
The law offers minimal relief to landlords: it prevents lenders from foreclosing homeowners with 10 units or less until May 1 if they're in trouble with Covid. However, you are still responsible for mortgage, tax, water, and heating bills.
Try to negotiate a payment plan with your tenants. Legislation delays the eviction, but does not cancel the rent back. You could now bring a case against your tenant for unpaid rent and damage their credit. Even if you don't, a future owner of the building could sue you. David Skaller, litigation attorney and partner at Belkin Burden Goldman law firm in Manhattan, suggested using this as a bargaining point: if they privately work out an agreement with you, they can avoid the court and protect their loans.
If they have lost wages and cannot pay them, offer them information about unemployment benefits or other benefits. Perhaps they could pay a reduced rent to get rid of past debts and give you some income and financial relief. You could offer to pay them for the vacation. Of course, they may not be able to move as a new landlord would not be positive about tenants with such rental history. Or they are nervous about moving during a pandemic.
That being said, you'll have to wait and see if future auxiliary bills will help you weather this storm.
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