BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Renters across New York State are relying on a state moratorium that protects them from any COVID-19 related evictions through January 1 of 2021.
But once that date comes, housing advocates say there is not enough to protect renters who might have to pay back-rent and the fear is that a wave of evictions’ will follow.
“At the drop of a dime,” declared Angel Rosado, housing justice organizer, Push Buffalo.
There are a lot of residents renting in the city — according to Push Buffalo 55 to 60 percent of Buffalo residents are renters.
Renters are protected under the Tenant Safe Harbor Act. It prevents a landlord from evicting tenants during the pandemic because of financial hardship.
But Rosado warns it won't protect them from other eviction reasons and right now, the courts have no idea when that could happen.
“And they've said listen — we're not even going to know when we are hearing evictions until pretty much the day before it happens because we all have to figure out the legalities of what's happening,” Rosado explained.
Rosado worries about what is ahead for tenants. He said it will be hard to prepare them, if that wave of evictions starts.
“There’s no real way to prepare people or help people process the idea, if they’re not going to know until the day before,” Rosado remarked.
“There’s going to be a lot of people evicted and there’s going to be a lot of small claims lawsuits — people that think that they’re not paying now and that they are never going to have to pay it,” responded Tim Walton, landlord, Village of Depew.
On the other side of the battle — the landlord.
“92 percent of landlords have mortgages on their property,” remarked Walton.
Walton already paid off his mortgage and was able to allow his tenants to stay in their home rent-free back in April while they were out of work because of the pandemic.
But Walton says there's a great deal of confusion for both the landlord and tenants related to evictions during COVID.
“Somebody who’s on welfare — with no change in their income and just decides not to pay. I know a lot of those people in that situation — they're making more money now — they've said basically. We're not paying and you can't kick me out,” Walton said.
Walton defends landlords. He said many who he knows would be willing to work with tenants if they cannot afford rent during COVID.
Tuesday Governor Andrew Cuomo extended the Commercial Eviction moratorium through January first to match the residential moratorium.
State Assemblyman Sean Ryan of Buffalo says he's hoping the federal government acts on a new stimulus package soon to address this issue.
“And one of the ways we can use that stimulus money is to make sure that landlords are getting paid and tenants aren't getting evicted,” Ryan stated.
7 Eyewitness News asked Rosado what his message is to the state and Governor about the issue.
“We don’t do enough for tenants and small home owners,” replied Rosado. “We need a Cancel Rent Bill passed - that if federal money comes through - it’s already going to be allocated for that reason.”
We asked Assemblyman Ryan what his advice is to renters. Ryan said you should “make every effort to pay your rent” and keep the line of communications open with your landlord.
“The last thing you should do is not pay and think it’s some sort of holiday because that will end with you being evicted at some point,” Ryan responded.