SCHENECTADY – Promising “heavy-duty stuff” related to the governor’s prolonging of a residential and commercial eviction moratorium, Schenectady Landlords Influencing Change will hold a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Trinity Lutheran Church on Furman Street, according to its director, Chris Morris.
On Thursday, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law a new moratorium on COVID-related residential and commercial evictions for New York State, to remain in effect until Jan. 15.
The latest moratorium empowered landlords by allowing them to contest a tenant’s claim of a financial hardship related to the pandemic.
For the Schenectady meeting, a representative of the Schenectady Community Action Program, which is providing application assistance for renters and landlords applying for the county’s portion of the state’s $2.7 billion Emergency Rental Assistance Program during the pandemic, will be on-hand.
In addition, representatives from the federal Housing and Urban Development’s Section 8 program, the county sheriff’s department, for handling of evictions, and local eviction lawyer Dan Binisan are among the scheduled presenters, Morris said.
Reached late last week, Binisan contested many components of the moratorium and its consequences for small landlords.
Binisan, who’s from Romania, said many of the landlords he represents are also immigrants, and they’re struggling to maintain their properties during the pandemic.
“All of (the landlords) have a second job to be able to pay for the taxes in the city of Schenectady, because most of them got no money at all from the tenants,” Binisan said.
The intent of the legislation “might be noble,” Binisan said, but there are “unintended consequences” from renters “taking advantage of the moratorium.”
“The moratorium has no justification, because right now there’s no state of emergency in New York,” Binisan said. “We have vaccines.”
Binisan said he’s a first lieutenant in the New York National Guard and helped run vaccinations clinics at various University of Albany campuses.
“The National Guard was activated under federal orders to assist the emergency pandemic,” he said. “The National Guard was providing soldiers, even Army medics who vaccinated New York people. So I don’t see any justification for this moratorium because there is no more state of emergency.”
Binisan also questioned the constitutionality of he moratorium.
The legislation says that evictions should be postponed, pending the final outcome of a tenant’s application for emergency relief.
Binisan said the law requires a landlord to present the application for a hardship declaration to his tenant, which is not in the landlord’s interest. As such, it’s “compelled speech against the First Amendment,” Binisan said.
“They put the burden on a landlord to submit this hardship declaration against their free will and against their principle and their interests. As an attorney, I have a conflict of interest because I have to advise my client that he must give this hardship declaration to the tenant, and it’s a form of legal advice” to the tenant, the lawyer said.