Landlords fight back against moratorium to get their property back

Local News

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Landlords are fighting back against New York’s long-running moratorium on evictions, saying the law could leave them homeless. More than 30 Western New York property owners are suing the state to get their day in court.

The moratorium, brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has been in effect for 20 months and when this last extension runs its course, some landlords will have gone more than two years without collecting a dime of rent. They say it is putting them out of business, and possibly worse.

The state’s moratorium on evictions prohibits landlords from removing tenants for non-payment of rent if they claim a hardship caused by COVID-19.

The landlord must have a “good faith belief” the tenant is not facing a hardship, or the tenant gets to stay. Attorney Jaime Michelle Cain said that is a high bar for landlords.

“Have gone on social media and they have seen a tenant has traveled somewhere, and they are posting pictures. Or some landlords have ‘dumpster dived’ and are able to pull out packages that are coming to someone’s house routinely,” Cain said.

Cain, an attorney for Lipsitz, Green, Scime, and Cambria says that bar is out of reach for many Buffalo-area landlords, many of whom depend on their rental income.

“These are owners who are conducting themselves to make a living. They don’t all get rich off of this. This is a lot of some of our smaller landlords’ only means of retirement or only means of income,” Cain added.

The firm has filed a lawsuit against the state court system, challenging New York’s continuous moratorium on evictions, a moratorium the United States Supreme Court has ruled is unconstitutional. But after state lawmakers made a few changes, Cain says it puts an unfair burden on landlords to take back their property.

Many of the landlords’ rentals are affordable, but Cain told us, they are being forced to sell.

The eviction moratorium, as it stands, is in effect until January 15th, 2022, and Cain says the loss of affordable housing will hurt everyone.

We reached out to the courts and tenants’ rights groups, but they are closed for Veterans Day.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here. To submit a Call 4 Action, click here.

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