The state-imposed moratorium on evictions intended to help tenants avoid homelessness during the pandemic is hurting many landlords, some who haven't been paid for nearly a year.
"My tenants don't have a hardship. They just are refusing to pay me right now and they have sent me text messages saying they won't pay and they won't leave until COVID tells them they can leave," says landlord, Anne Sullivan, of Utica.
Sullivan and several other local landlords have the same issue: tenants whose circumstances haven't changed and who are not suffering a pandemic-related hardship, but, knowing they can't be evicted, simply stop paying rent. Elected leaders are not immune to the losses.
"A hardship is a hardship and I get that and I've worked with people here who've had an inability to pay and have let us know and have kept us in the loop and things like that, that's one thing. But when someone completely just ignores you because they feel as though they can," says landlord, Tim Julian, who is also an Oneida County legislator. "Just simply refuse to pay because they heard what they wanted to hear which is, 'you don't have to pay.'"
For those who own multiple properties, the losses are substantial.
"When somebody owes you one month's rent or two month's rent or three month's rent, that's one thing, it's a loss. But when somebody owes you a year's worth of rent, it turns into thousands of dollars, $10,000 one person owes you and you have 12 of them, it's a fast track to be out of business," says Bob Donnelly, a Utica landlord who owns 84 housing units. "It's like, get free rent on the landlords and there's no subsidy for landlords. It's like we're forgotten."
There is a tenant relief fund, but tenants who can't prove a pandemic-related hardship aren't eligible. That's why some state lawmakers are trying to give landlords access to that money.
"As we look at the federal funding that is coming forward, I have asked, with my colleagues, that that funding go through a certain process to ensure landlords are included," says Assemblywoman, Marianne Buttenschon, D-119.
Until then, landlords wait for the courts to start hearing eviction proceedings again, so they can move the non-paying tenants. But many aren't confident they'll ever see the money the tenants owe.
"We're walking away here from tens of thousands of dollars because we're never gonna see it from these tenants. This is all over and we do have the opportunity to evict, the tenants are gonna go and we're never gonna see anything from them again," says Julian.
Cuomo has extended the moratorium through May 1.