Landlord faces abuse from tenants who owe her $23,000 in back rent

Landlord’s don’t get a lot of love from people but yesterday the NY Times published a story pointing out that small-scale landlords have been dealing with a lot between the pandemic and the eviction moratorium. The story focuses on a physician’s assistant named Vanie Mangal who lives in the upper portion of a house owned by her mother. The first floor of the house is a separate apartment as is the basement. Last year the people on the first floor stopped paying rent and didn’t pay anything for 15 months.

The first-floor tenants have not paid rent in 15 months, bang on the ceiling below her bed at all hours for no apparent reason and yell, curse and spit at her, Ms. Mangal said. A tenant in the basement apartment also stopped paying rent, keyed Ms. Mangal’s car and dumped packages meant for her by the garbage. After Ms. Mangal got an order of protection and then a warrant for the tenant’s arrest, the woman and her daughter moved out.

All told, Ms. Mangal — who has captured many of her tenants’ actions on surveillance video — has not only lost sleep from the tensions inside her two-story home but also $36,600 in rental income. “It’s been really horrendous,” she said. “What am I supposed to do — live like this?”

The people who moved into the first floor apartment paid rent for five months but haven’t paid anything since March of last year. Mangal has been stuck paying their share of the natural gas bill which now totals $1,700. Last December Mangal filed a lawsuit but there is a huge backlog of eviction cases in New York which will likely take months to get through. In the meantime she has started working a 2nd job to cover the bills:

In February, Ms. Mangal started a second job, working at vaccination sites across New York City, up to 13-hour shifts on her days off so she can make up for the lost rent. “I’m going to have to be supporting these people for the rest of my life,” she said. “I just don’t see an end in sight.”

The Times’s reporter knocked on the door of the first floor apartment but no one would answer. In a phone conversation the husband said the reporter could talk to his lawyer but he never provided the name or information for a lawyer.

While all of this was happening, Mangal was also dealing with the tenants in the basement. She caught the mother who has been living there on video vandalizing her car. After that incident she was able to get a protective order and the mother and daughter moved out last December in exchange for Mangal dropping the charges against them. They still owe her $9,000 in unpaid rent.

As I often do, I have to point out the Times’ readers can be remarkably sensible at times. Here’s the top upvoted comment: [emphasis added]

Finally, The NYTimes has highlighted the plight of many small landlords in places like Queens where most of the landlords are themselves immigrants. Tenants who refuse to pay rent & who can cause damage to the apt. thereby causing even more loss. The article also highlights that in places like Queens many of these rentals are in 2-3 story homes where the landlord also lives. These are common building types in NYC and provide rental housing for many in a city with a housing shortage. Yet the Democratic Party & Mayors give no support to these small landlords & treat them as if they are big Manhattan or elite Brooklyn property owners like de Blasio who can pay high legal fees. Many small landlords have kept their apts. empty this past year then take a chance to rent to tenants who once inside will not pay the rent & make trouble. Once you turn over the keys to a tenant you lose control. And this is more of a problem in NYC than anywhere else. Those like Ms. Mangal & her family are part of the unseen middle class in places like Queens that the Democratic Party who are only interested in the urban elite professional classes no longer support. Another common problem is when tenants move in & then illegally begin to rent out part of the apt. to others so they are collecting rent while at the same time refusing to pay rent to the legal owner. Tenants have been given too much power & they know they can get away with their abuse & get a free law clinic lawyer to aid them.

New York isn’t the only place things like this are happening. I’ve been seeing stories like this for months. Here’s one from Seattle:

This one happened in Connecticut where a family living in a rental announced last January that they would not be paying anymore rent. It turned out they had done this before but the eviction moratorium allowed them to get away with it for a lot longer than they would have in a normal year:

And here’s another one more from Long Beach, CA back in April. A couple bought what they considered their “dream home” and then the person who’d been living there simply announced he wasn’t leaving until he was forced to do so. And thanks to the moratorium that meant not anytime soon. At least in this case the tenant kept paying rent. He just refused to leave the home he doesn’t own.