How does the eviction crisis end? That’s probably what a lot of people in New York City, both tenants and landlords alike, are wondering at the moment. The eviction moratorium is still in place and it’s about to be extended at the federal level by Joe Biden. And it doesn’t only apply to those who lost their jobs. Nobody can be legally evicted except in the most extreme cases involving serious criminal behavior. (And even then you’ll need a judge and a legal team to manage the feat.) This has led an increasing number of people to simply stop paying and thumb their noses at the landlord. The result was as predictable as it was financially crippling. Larger real estate and venture capital giants are mostly weathering the storm, but too many of the mom and pop, small business landlords are continuing to go under. (CBS New York)

Dozens of independent landlords say their tenants have been taking advantage of the COVID eviction moratorium.

CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge spoke to two elderly New Yorkers who are desperate for help. They say the state law is draining them of money they need to survive.

In December 2018, 94-year-old Ignatious “Bill” Pantano rented out his condo on Benson Avenue in Brooklyn and the problems with his tenant started immediately.

Pantano’s issues began well before the pandemic hit and the eviction moratorium was in place. He had a tenant who moved in and immediately failed to begin paying the rent. Despite the landlord offering to let the renter stay an extra month for free, the tenant continued to refuse to move out and still didn’t pay. It took months for him to obtain an eviction order from the courts, scheduled for April of last year. And then the moratorium went into effect, blocking any further action. It’s now been more than two years and he still hasn’t seen a dime.

Pantano is now out more than $50,000 and his retirement savings are drying up. He’s in the same situation as the Howson family, who we discussed here previously. Landlords are now losing their own homes while the renters who should have been providing them with retirement income continue to live in their apartments for free.

Governor Andrew Cuomo was asked about this by a CBS reporter during a press conference recently. He responded by saying, “the law is the law. You can’t claim COVID hardship if you weren’t paying rent before COVID.”

That may be what the law says, but it’s not what’s happening out on the streets. Even in cases where landlords have been able to build a case against delinquent renters, the Sheriff’s marshal’s offices have basically been shut down. One Sheriff’s spokesperson responded to a request for comment by saying “Unfortunately our efforts to proceed with evictions have once again been put on hold.”

Were they “put on hold” by some orders from above or simply by circumstances? A follow-up email said, “We need the go ahead from the local powers that be.” That certainly makes it sound like the Sheriffs were ordered to stand down on evictions. But it doesn’t really matter either way because the result is the same. The rental units still have to be maintained and the bills come due, but the properties aren’t generating any income.

The day is coming, sooner or later. The vaccinations will be finished with some level of herd immunity achieved and then the eviction moratoriums will have to be terminated. What happens after that is a mystery. The courts will be flooded with eviction cases and may have a backlog that takes years to resolve. At this rate, we’ll have a generation of small-business landlords who will have lost their property and a massive number of people who are out on the streets. All of this should have been both preventable and anticipated. But in the government’s hurry to look like they were “doing something” (anything!) to prevent people from losing their homes, they only kicked the can increasingly further down the road. And in doing so, they magnified the intensity of the eventual crisis by a vast amount.