Hundreds of tenants are rallying this week demanding rent relief.
They warn the next few months could see the largest number of eviction cases ever because of the massive job losses caused by the pandemic and the partial easing of a 90-day state moratorium on eviction actions.
Winsome Pendergrass says she hasn’t been able to work or get unemployment.
“I cannot pay June rent, not because I don’t want to pay June rent, but because I do not have the means to pay,” she said.
But landlords say they are being squeezed, too. The Rent Guidelines Board just froze rents on one-year leases for the roughly 1 million rent-stabilized apartments.
“This year’s been an emotional rollercoaster,” said Lincoln Eccles, a building owner in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. He says the rent freeze and the eviction moratorium have him on the brink of financial collapse.
“Yeah, it’s a definite possibility of having to sell or lose it,” said Eccles.
Nine of 14 of his apartments are rent-stabilized, but two of his tenants haven’t paid rent for at least two years, putting him about $50,000 in the hole.
“My cash has dwindled out,” said Eccles.
He had hoped to conclude eviction proceedings against those two tenants by July, but says the governor’s eviction moratorium and limited operations by the housing court may push back getting them out until next year.
“Between the courts, the judges and the legislation that’s been set up, everything’s dragged out,” he said.
He says eviction is a last resort and that he’s working with his tenants who can’t pay their rent but want to.
Pendergrass says she’s yet to hear if her landlord will give her a payment plan.
“The rent is stacking up, and I’m just hoping and praying whatever she comes up with will be reasonable, so we as tenants can work with her,” she said.
While tenant advocates are demanding the cancellation of rent and a five-year rent freeze, Eccles says his tax and water bill have doubled under the de Blasio administration, and he needs relief from the city and the state.
Simply put, many tenants and landlords say they are at the breaking point because of the pandemic.