ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — New York’s eviction moratorium is set to officially expire on Saturday.
Governor Kathy Hochul extended the moratorium last September, but she said in a briefing this week that she won’t be extending it again.
During the pandemic, the moratorium has been a lifeline for many tenants locally. It kept landlords from evicting tenants who could show the pandemic had affected their ability to pay rent.
“Prior to the pandemic Rochester saw 8,000 evictions filed a year, the equivalent of about an eviction against one out of 10 Rochester residents, which is just a huge number,” said Ritti Singh, the Communications Coordinator for Rochester’s City-Wide Tenant Union.
Singh said with the moratorium expiring, they are expecting a “tidal wave of evictions” in our community, but they won’t happen all at once.
“For an eviction to be legal, a tenant has to go through the court process. That means that the landlord files an eviction with proper notice, the tenant goes to court. Sometimes that’s just one court hearing. Sometimes that’s that could be several, and you’re not really legally evicted until a like a judge tells you that you are going to be evicted,” Singh said.
She added that since the pandemic started, there has been more than 2,000 active eviction cases in Rochester. She said many of those cases will be rescheduled throughout the next couple months. Singh also said there will be a “big wave” of filings for evictions from Landlords who had been holding off because of the moratorium.
“An eviction is just traumatic, you have to leave everything behind, you have no home, you have no permanent address when you’re trying to apply for jobs. And that trauma can really just stay with you for even years,” Singh said.
She’s worried evictions could also lead to more COVID transmission.
“We’re in the middle of a huge wave of Omicron. In our community, if people are evicted, they don’t have anywhere to go, shelter beds are full, most likely, they’ll end up either in the streets or doubling up tripling up with friends or family, which is definitely going to increase the spread of the virus,” Singh said.
On the other side of the isle, landlords and property owners are hopeful that the moratorium expiring is a step in the right direction.
Matt Drouin works with OakGrove Development and has been in the real estate business for 15 years. He has a few different types of rental properties currently.
“I have upper-income properties that are in the Park Avenue and South Wedge neighborhood that have really been unaffected by the pandemic. We’ve had some tenants that have fallen into trouble in between jobs and we just needed to work with them a little bit to get them back on track. And then we also have housing that is for our lower-income and moderate income residents and that one has been, housing providers in that space, have been hit very, very hard. I mean, been walloped by the pandemic,” Drouin said.
Drouin said during the pandemic there have been some tenants who have taken advantage of the eviction moratorium and it has hurt landlords.
“Let me be clear, we do not want to evict anybody. However, we’ve had tenants that have not paid in two years, and refuse to cooperate with rental assistance programs. So there needs to be a consequence to hold them accountable,” Drouin said.
“We can finally get the court system to do what they need to do and so that we can file for eviction for non payment,” he said. “And then there’s probably going to be a huge backlog of cases, because it’s been two years, right? The courts have been pretty much closed to eviction proceedings for non payment of rent. So this is going to be a pretty long drawn out process.”
Drouin said he is hopeful that with the moratorium expiring, it will motivate people to seek the help they need so they can keep them in their homes and not push low-income housing providers out of business.
“I think that that’s also going to give the time and also the motivation for these tenants that have been refusing to cooperate with rental assistance programs to start cooperating so that housing providers can start paying the real estate taxes, paying for repairs and maintenance in the properties, paying for utilities, expenses that people don’t really pay, their mortgage payments as well,” Drouin said.
However, Drouin said there are still many issues with housing that need to be addressed as well.
“Our policymakers seem to be hearing from the loudest voices and not doing outreach to the people that actually in the business of providing the the the product, which is housing for our residents. We have a housing shortage, we have an affordable housing crisis. And we need to figure out what is the strategy that’s sustainable, that puts all the tools on the table as to how we can address the issue,” Drouin said.
With the eviction moratorium ending, tenant unions and state lawmakers are pushing for Good Cause Eviction laws to be passed across New York. Currently, places like Albany, Kingston, Hudson and Newburgh have passed Good Cause eviction laws at a local level.
“With good cause, a landlord is required to show there is a good cause for the eviction. That includes non payment, lease violations, nuisance cases, or if a landlord wants to move into the property that could evict,” Singh said.
She adds the laws give tenants a right to renew their tenancy, protects against “retaliatory evictions” and can prevent unreasonable rent hikes.
But Drouin said Good Cause Eviction is “essentially universal rent control” and he said price controls aren’t a good thing.
“What ends up happening is they seem to be the cure to the problem, but when you have price controls put in place, we end up having these you have product shortages. We already have a shortage of affordable housing. So we need to figure out instead of attacking the limited supply that we already have, what can we do to increased supply? What can we do to address the real problem, which is an income problem in Western New York and Rochester, New York?” Drouin said.
“How can we raise incomes to a not just a living wage, but thriving wage for workers so that they can comfortably afford high quality housing had the most amount of housing options possible for them?”
To help tenants, New York is reopening its application portal for eviction protection and rent relief Tuesday night. Although the state doesn’t have enough money to provide any more rent relief, applicants will get protection from eviction while the state reviews their application.
To apply, you can click here.
You can also contact the Tenants Defense Project for free legal representation in eviction cases. Their number is 585-504-6195.