Rochester, NY (WROC) — Thousands of people have signed an online petition calling on the state to cancel rent for the month of may and the tenant’s unions here in Rochester are getting behind the movement.
Tenants who have been struggling during this crisis have been able to turn to the Rochester City Wide Tenants Union for resources.
“A lot of people are out of work and they can’t come up with that finance to pay the landlords,” said Barbara Rivera, of RCWTU and organizer of Cancel the Rent Movement.
“We’ve had two tenants reach out to us because a landlord did an illegal lockout during a COVID crisis.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has issued a moratorium on evictions until June for tenants that can’t pay rent, but the tenant’s union wants to take it one step further and is pushing for rent to be canceled without back payments accruing.
“Now our goal is to help any tenant that might need legal information, or just how to go about a rent strike. We’re not encouraging tenants to go on a rent strike, we’re just like making sure that they know what steps to take,” Rivera said.
A strike could hurt landlords. Their mortgages are temporarily suspended, but they will soon be due and they’re also faced with the on going costs of maintaining buildings.
An organization that represents landlords in New York said a rent strike would create an economic and housing pandemic and landlords are being made the scapegoat.
But advocates for tenants say, landlords can’t rely on their tenants for help, the New York Times reports 40% of New Yorkers were unable to pay their rent for April, and the situation for this month is only expected to worsen.
“Here to help tenants just do what they can to stay in their homes. We even offering to talk to landlords, supporting the tenants to speak up for themselves,” said Rivera. “I just think that right now, tenants more than ever need to be protected.”
The tenant’s union is holding seminars called Know Your Rights, Know Your Power in order to spread information to tenants and continuing pushing for rent cancellations.