EDITORIAL: Government must help landlords

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It’s easy to be unsympathetic to the landlord profession.

They’re the ones with the reputation as greedy misers who throw you and your kids on the street when you can’t pay your rent.

But while there are bad apples in any profession, many landlords are simply local business people who make an investment in their properties to earn a living or make extra money for their families.

Many are seniors or young families renting out a portion of their two-family houses to make ends meet. They purchase and maintain buildings. They pay local property taxes and support other local businesses.

But the covid crisis fell heavily on landlords. Government policies putting a moratorium on evictions allowed many tenants to defer rent for months, depriving landlords of the income they need to make a living and pay their taxes and mortgages.

During the crisis, landlords didn’t get a break from replacing roofs or furnaces or providing trash and cable services or clearing sidewalks and maintaining lawns.

Like other small business people, landlords are struggling and need help.

A bill sponsored by state Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara (A4464) and now cosponsored in the Senate by Sen. Michelle Hinchey, would allow municipalities to provide small landlords experiencing financial problems due to covid with an extension, without interest or penalty, on paying their property taxes.

The extension would last for 180 days beyond the covid state of emergency. Landlords would have to document they haven’t gotten rent. And the extension would be limited to landlords owning a total of five or less rental units. Taxes and penalties would be due after the 180 days.

If landlords can hold onto their properties and maintain them, it will keep those properties from falling into disrepair and accumulating code violations, protecting the health and safety of tenants.

It also may protect more properties from foreclosure and from turning into Zombie properties that make communities unattractive and drive down local property values.

Among other steps, governments need to help landlords collect overdue rent, rather than allowing delinquent tenants with the ability to pay to use the crisis as a permanent excuse to live rent-free and avoid eviction.

They also need to direct tenants to rent relief programs and welfare relief programs through the state and federal governments that funnel taxpayer-supported back-rent directly to landlords.

Communities also should use a portion of their federal windfall for grants and low-interest loans to help landlords repair damage not covered by security deposits.

Just as government leaders can’t abandon tenants in their time of need, they also can’t hide behind budget deadlines and bureaucracy to avoid helping struggling small business owners like landlords.

The cost of inaction is too great.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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