NYC Tenants Owe More Than $2 Billion In Unpaid Rent As Cuomo Extends Eviction Moratorium

New shocking figures produced by a New York area landlord trade group, the Community Housing Improvement Program, finds half of all New York City apartment tenants are behind on rent to the combined tune of over $1 billion as the US begins to approach one year since the coronavirus pandemic hit America.

The group surveyed landlords who oversee up to half of the city’s total rental apartments in order to assess the impact of coronavirus closures, historic unemployment, and resulting limited government assistance. “Tallying responses from landlords, the group estimated that as many as 185,000 households living in these apartments are more than two months behind on rent, with an average debt of more than $6,000,” The Wall Street Journal summarized of the findings.

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Seeking to safeguard tenants during mandated lockdowns, state lawmakers have rushed to pass emergency regulations which bar evictions as well as foreclosures and negative credit ratings on small property owners. Governor Cuomo has extended the eviction moratorium all the way to May of this year, with the possibility it could be extended further.

Meanwhile, building owners and landlords have been left holding the bag – after all, who would pay rent at this point with all the “protections” and no negative repercussions? Thus stories like the following will only continue to multiply:

A landlord in Harlem is reportedly is facing his own eviction after tenants in a building he owns refuse to pay rent.  

Family for David Howson, 88, told the NY Post that he relies on the rental income from the 10-unit building he owns at 9 West 129th St. to pay for his co-op apartment in Inwood. 

The Community Housing Improvement Program assessed merely half of the city’s landlords, which suggests we’re more likely looking at over $2 billion of debt from missed rent payments.

The WSJ report continues: “Jay Martin, executive director of CHIP, said rent debt from the rest of New York’s apartment inventory is probably the same or greater, meaning the total debt New York City renters are carrying is likely more than $2 billion.”

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Landlords aren’t necessarily or simply proposing that there be no protections for tenants whatsoever, but they are livid that as local and state anti-eviction laws stand, there’s nothing that requires “proof” of pandemic-related hardship. The COVID relief package from December allocated to New York up to $1.3 billion for rental assistance, but it’s unclear the degree to which the bulk of that will actually reach unpaid landlords.

A recent statement from the Rent Stabilization Association points precisely to this problem:

“With no requirement of proof that the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected their income, and no income limitation to qualify for eviction protection, a tenant whose household income went from a half-million dollars to $250,000 would qualify for eviction protection by declaring that their income has been ‘significantly reduced,’” president of the organization Joseph Strasburg said.

So again, with the short-sighted rush to apply a quick fix band aid, which has proven no “fix” at all, who at this point would even pay the rent that’s owed? In the end it has sent all of New York housing to the brink of disaster – tenants, landlords, and potentially the banks that hold the property notes alike.