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Lancaster tenant shares his side of story after landlord spray paints rent debt on roof

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Posted at 2:56 PM, May 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-19 18:40:46-04

“I’m embarrassed about this, ya know?"

Embarrassment coming from Ray Ross after his landlord spray painted his name and his rent debt on the roof of his apartment building in Lancaster.

“I’m sorry that I owe this man that money. But, he shouldn’t do it this way,” Ross told 7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ali Touhey. “It’s been really stressful through this pandemic,” he added.

Ross said he was laid off from his job in September, and he’s been caring for his diabetic sister who recently had to have both legs amputated. “I was taken care of my sister, and me. All the bills...they all piled up, so quickly.”

Ross said he is collecting unemployment, but it’s less than what he was making working at a nearby restaurant.

TOUHEY: WHY DIDN’T YOU PAY RENT ALL THESE MONTHS?
Ross: I did give him money.
TOUHEY: WHY DIDN’T YOU PAY RENT IN FULL ALL THESE MONTHS?
Ross: I didn’t have the full amount of money.

Ross also said he applied for rent assistance programs through Erie County. But, he was denied eligibility. 7 Eyewitness News reached out to the county and is waiting for a response.

Landlord Kevin Nowak Sr. said the state’s eviction moratorium—which has been in effect since March of 2020— prevents him from evicting or suing Ross and the other tenant on the lease.

“I don’t mean to do this to be vengeful to the people themselves. I’m frustrated with the government,” Nowak said when asked about his actions.

Attorney Adam Bojak is now representing Ross and the other tenant’s name who was painted on the roof. “I don’t care how much rent somebody owes. It could be $10. It could be $10 million. You do not retaliate against that tenant,” he said. “This is taking a private party's private information and making it public. So, we’re looking at all legal avenues at this point.”

Meantime, Ross said he’s trying to find another place to live. He said he’s received online threats since the roof was painted. “They’re saying they’re going to come here and burn the house down and all that stuff. So, it’s been a little nerve-racking since he did this. I don’t feel safe in my own home anymore. And, that’s hard to deal with.”