Landlords warn New York City is on the 'brink of catastrophe'

Just like tenants, many NYC landlords have been struggling to make ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic
NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Landlords are often seen as the bad guys, the people you have to pay on time every month.

But just like tenants, many of them say they've been struggling to make ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic -- and they believe the city is on the brink of catastrophe.

While we've heard from people who have moved from New York City to places across the country, at least temporarily, during the pandemic, 7 On Your Side Investigates spoke with some of the small landlords left behind.

"It's really, really scary," property owner Stacey Golia said.

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In the past 20 years, Golia says her small Harlem apartment building has never been as empty as it is now. More than half of her two bedroom apartments are vacant.

With many of the college campuses closed to in-person learning, she says her tenants have moved out.

"It can't just be one sided," she said. "And at this point in time, it's really one sided."

She says it's not just tenants who are struggling.

"Even though the units are vacant right now, I'm still paying as if the entire building has been occupied," she said. "It's financially detrimental."

Some renters have received "freezes" or reductions during the pandemic, and a moratorium on evictions has been extended by the city until at least 2021. But little help has been offered to small landlords to help make ends meet.

"It's a really hard situation all around, because there's no money coming in," Golia said. "And you still have to provide basic services. It becomes a major financial struggle."

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She worries monthly about not being able to pay her mortgage and also her property taxes. She says she pays about $100,000 per year, and the city needs money from real estate taxes to help operate.

"There are rent pauses, there are court pauses," she said. "But there are no pauses on property taxes."

She's not alone. Jimmy Silber, of the Small Property Owners of New York, says hundreds of small landlords are in the same situation.

"This is the tip of an iceberg," Silber said. "And it's going to lead to a catastrophic loss of small buildings in this city."

The problem, they say, is that they're paying current taxes to the city based on pre-pandemic income they made in 2018.

"It has to be restructured," Silber said. "Otherwise, building owners are not going to make it. They're not going to pay their taxes, and these buildings are going to go under."

They're hoping government leaders see there are two sides to the issue.

"Just because you're a landlord doesn't mean you have a pot of gold sitting at the end of a rainbow," Golia said. "We all work here."

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