LONG ISLAND (WABC) -- Some small landlords on Long Island are facing foreclosure and bankruptcy due to non-payment of rent from their tenants during the pandemic, Eyewitness News has learned.
"The people that are being hurt are these mom and pop landlords," said Long Island real estate attorney John Lynch. "I have clients who now can't pay their mortgages and are in danger of being foreclosed upon."
In June 2019, Louis DiPasquale, of Westhampton Beach, rented out the home he bought for his son in Sound Beach because his son was being deployed with the Army to Cuba.
DiPasquale said the last full rent payment he received from the tenant was in January 2020. He said the tenant paid only $1,100 of the $2,150 rent in February.
He moved to evict her in March 2020, but the courts closed due to the pandemic. Then the state instituted the eviction moratorium ban as a way to prevent masses of people from flooding the streets and homeless shelters during the pandemic.
DiPasquale said he is out $32,000. His son is back from deployment and can't return to the house.
"My son would be homeless right now if he couldn't come live with us," he said. "I just want my house back."
DiPasquale's tenant also submitted to him the New York State Declaration of Hardship form which frees tenants from having to pay rent if they attest that they are experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic. Tenants do not have to provide proof of hardship.
DiPasquale said he has seen Facebook videos of his tenant vacationing in other states.
Senator Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan), the Chair of the New York State Housing Committee and champion of the Hardship Declaration form and the eviction moratorium, said the courts, at present, are not able to handle confirming whether people's hardship attestations are, in fact, true.
"We think there might be as many as a million households who are behind in their rent, so a process where all of those landlords and all of those tenants are going to court really just has not been something that we thought was safe or reasonable to do during a pandemic," he said.
Kavanagh said the state is expected to approve in the state budget $2.3 billion for landlords to recoup back rent.
"Relief is on the way," he said.
In the meantime, some small landlords have been pleading for their day in court because they believe tenants, who can pay rent, are taking advantage of them and of the system.
At a recent rally in Manhattan, sponsored by a group called NY Landlords, a woman detailed her plight with her tenant.
"I have to live under the same room with people who say they cannot pay a cent of rent. I've watched them go to the beach on Fire Island and post about it on Instagram. I watch them go skiing. I watch them go on vacation," she said.
Kavanagh said if people can afford to pay rent, they should be.
"The eviction moratorium is not a rent holiday," he said.
Kavanagh said he has heard reports of people using the Hardship Declaration form to get out of paying rent.
"In any system there are people that, you know, will take advantage," he said.
Filing a false declaration form is considered a Class A misdemeanor and is punishable up to one year in prison.
Once the eviction moratorium is lifted, tenants will owe all back rent to the landlord, but the courts are expected to have a long backlog of cases.
Eyewitness News has learned that Nassau County has 160 open eviction cases, Suffolk County has 527 and New York City has 213,524.
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