Mayor Says: “Tenants Should Pay Rent: ‘If They Can’”

Mayor Says: “Tenants Should Pay Rent: ‘If They Can’”

 By Yehudit Garmaise

In April 2020, the number of New Yorkers who were unemployed was 1,435,688, however, as the economy recovers from COVID, that figure has been cut in half, and 772,158 of those new Yorkers have returned to work.  

While Mayor Bill de Blasio trumpets the city’s recovery from the pandemic in most regards, he continues to criticize the end of the federal mandate to bar evictions of tenants who did not pay their rent.

In addition, the mayor emphasizes tenants’ need to have representation in court, which his administration provides to tenants who were at risk of being evicted, likely for non-payment of rent, throughout the pandemic with Right-to-Counsel legislation he called “historic.”

In September, New York City’s largest landlord group, the Rent Stabilization Association (RSA), which successfully argued in the US Supreme Court against the eviction ban that had been in place since March 2020, reported that during that time they had collectively lost $19 billion: due to unpaid rent.

The RSA explained that not only were they not paid for the apartments and services they provided for 18 months, but as the tenants were increasingly emboldened to expect that their rent be forgiven, the landlords were given no way to contest what the tenants reported as their hardships, while tenants were given free legal services in court.

The mayor said this morning that “historically, landlords did have representation, while tenants did not, and that was an imbalance that needed to be addressed.”

Now that joblessness has now returned to pre-pandemic levels, this morning BoroPark24 asked the mayor why, at this point: non-payment of rent could result in what he still seems to be calling “illegal evictions”?

“You are right:” the mayor told BoroPark24, “finally the economy is coming back, but, that is really recent," although unemployment has been down for months.

“If you can afford to pay the rent: pay the rent,” said the mayor, who was speaking as if paying rent were an optional condition to staying in an apartment. “Because the buildings need to keep going. The heat needs to stay on, the repairs need to be made.

“But there are a lot of people who just couldn’t.”

While those people “just couldn’t pay their rent,” for 18 months, New York City landlords, who were not allowed to evict tenants and were also expected to provide residential services, such as heat and water, and safety measures, such as fumigation, experienced serious financial hardship themselves.

Instead of encouraging tenants who do not pay their rent to enter the now-thriving job market, the mayor was happy to see that those tenants are now benefiting from the billions of dollars that President Joe Biden’s administration has provided through his economic stimulus in January.

“We are finally seeing some of the aid reaching [the tenants,]” said the mayor, who never passes an opportunity to celebrate public funding.

“It is now a time when a lot more people should catch up on their rent and pay what they can and get the landlords up-to-date,” the mayor said, with no urgency in his voice to express the importance of tenants re-paying the months of rent they might owe their landlords.

While the mayor said, “the vast majority of landlords do the right thing,” he seems wary of them as a group. “Then there are some who do the wrong thing: The ones who try to illegally evict people or not provide heat and services that drive people out of the building, so they can raise the rent.

“Those people need to be dealt with very aggressively.”

  Photo: Flickr

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