By Chris Morris
For The Daily Gazette
Assemblyman Phil Steck feels that “the eviction moratorium is misunderstood.”
From his explanation of his own statement in a letter to the editor he wrote for The Gazette on May 14, clearly it is he who “misunderstands!”
He is seriously out of touch with what really has been happening to the small landlord business locally and all across the state.
First, the impact of the 2019 Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act significantly reduced owner control of their own properties. Then 2020-21 Covid 19 restrictions enabled some tenants to stay for a whole year without pay.
Mr. Steck suggests that landlords “go to the police” if they feel a tenant is falsifying hardship.
If the police do respond to a call, even when it’s disruptive behavior affecting the property or other people, many have found that the standard comment is usually “It’s a civil matter. Take it to court.”
And nothing is done.
If a case does get to court, Schenectady City Hall is still closed; cases are virtual and challenging at best.
Overwhelmingly, if a case is heard, tenants are granted a stay, whatever the situation and the amount of money owed.
Figures go up into the thousands over the year.
How do these small business owners compensate for these tremendous losses and still fulfill their obligation to city, state and tenant?
Mr. Steck speaks of the Office of Temporary Disability Assistance (OTDA) availability.
But the fact is, federal funds are yet to be accessible to the struggling landlords who are running out of time to apply within a 30-day window (by September).
The statement that mortgage and tax foreclosures are stayed, although true, only puts off the obligation for the landlord, who has no money to stave off the inevitable, yet has to provide for the illusive, resistant, often-combative tenant who doesn’t want to be “harassed’’ about rent owed or any lease stipulations that should be followed.
Our assemblyman claims that he “understands landlords feel there should be no interference with their property rights and don’t want to apply for government assistance.”
Ever since the 2019 Tenant Protection Act and its 20-plus changes, the balance between tenant and landlord has been thrown severely out of whack, with the landlord having less and less control over his own property.
Of course, owners shout out against diminished ability to run their own businesses.
Coupled with that issue is the ever-growing financial stress, leading landlords to begging for “government assistance” not running from it.
As director of Schenectady Landlords Influencing Change (SLIC), I have received countless phone calls from frantic landlords over the past year seeking a listening ear and any lifeline in hopes of survival.
Mr. Steck, we invite you to attend our next meeting (Zoom or live) on Wednesday, June 2, at 6:30 p.m. at the Trinity Lutheran Church, 35 Furman St.
We would like you to explain just where we “misunderstand the eviction moratorium” after you hear the “real stories” of so many small landlords, whose very existence is threatened by not only bad, destructive tenant behavior, but a failed system forcing us to provide and maintain housing without the controls or the money to do so.
We look forward to your response.
Chris Morris is director of Schenectady Landlords Influencing Change (SLIC).