Working-class homeowners and their tenants have long come to rely on one another for stability amidst New York City’s volatile housing landscape.
On the one hand, homeowners rent out apartments in their properties to help pay their mortgages and other housing expenses. On the other hand, tenants rely on homeowners to offer them apartments that are often at or below market rates. While the pandemic has underscored this critical relationship, it has also laid bare the vulnerability of both parties to economic forces outside their control.
That’s why it is so critical for landlords and their tenants to work together with the common goal of preserving affordable rental housing and homeownership. Failure to do so will lead to a wave of both evictions and foreclosures, and the displacement of many New Yorkers from their homes and communities.
So what can you do as a homeowner? What can tenants do? Here are some tips:
Have a conversation and explore options to resolve rental issues together. This may be easier than you think. Most landlords prefer long term tenants and may be willing to work out a resolution rather than finding a new tenant, especially given COVID-19 concerns. And most tenants prefer stability to moving or facing eviction.
Consider using the security deposit to cover late rent. If you go this route, come up with a plan together about how it will be paid back and by when. In May, the Governor ordered, upon the consent of the tenant, that landlords and tenants can enter into an agreement where a security deposit is used to pay rent. Landlords can provide that relief to tenants who request it and are eligible for unemployment or are facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Develop a plan and write it down. Is there a reasonable amount that can be repaid monthly? The plan should be written as some sort of addendum to the lease so it does not give the impression that this is a new lease. This plan should note rent arrears, partial rent (if any) paid during the crisis, whether the security deposit will be used as rent payment, and establish a timeframe for repayment. The plan should be signed, and both the landlord and tenant should have a copy.
Explore rental assistance programs. New York State Homes and Community Renewal (NYSHCR) recently announced the COVID Rent Relief Program, which will be accepting applications until August 6th. The Human Resources Administration (HRA) has a program called One Shot Deal to provide emergency financial assistance. HRA also administers other rental subsidies, such as the Family Homelessness & Eviction Prevention Supplement (FHEPS), which is a rent supplement for families with children who receive cash assistance and have been evicted or are facing eviction.
Explore options for seniors. Older New Yorkers could benefit from the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE). The program pays for rent increases by applying credits to the landlord’s property tax bill; this can help ensure that rent will not increase after getting caught up in rent payments.
Get help from private organizations. If the tenant is not able to secure City-sponsored rent assistance, consider securing a low- or no-cost loan through organizations such as the Hebrew Loan Society. Additionally, The Bridge Fund will be temporarily providing rental subsidy and emergency food assistance to eligible families and individuals.
Consider mediation. Mediation is a conversation between two or more people that disagree, led by a trained, neutral mediator. Reach out to us for a referral to the New York Peace Institute. Mediation is a less expensive, time-saving alternative to court. This alternative to court allows the landlord and tenant to come to an agreement in a confidential and efficient manner.
Give us a call. Our Homeowner Hub connects homeowners to free resources available within their borough or neighborhood. The Center works with a network of non-profit organizations that provide high-quality counseling services for landlords and their tenants at no cost. Whether you’re a tenant or a landlord, you can call us at 646-786-0888 to be connected to a counselor. The Hub can help locate where those resources are, make a referral and follow up with the client and agency to ensure that they are able to connect.
For tenants, our partners can help explain the current protections, review the lease, and suggest guidance on how to approach the landlord to request relief. A counselor can guide you through the complicated application process for HRA, FHEPS, and private loans and grants. They also provide budget, debt counseling, benefits screening, and more.
For landlords, our partners can help explain whether a mortgage qualifies for the moratorium, and the necessary steps to secure mortgage relief from the lender. Our partners also educate and can offer tips to avoid common scams and help report fraud.
While the Center for New York City Neighborhoods is committed to promoting and preserving affordable homeownership, we know it’s not possible for landlords to survive without tenants paying their rent in good faith. The partnership has to work for both parties, which is why we’re committed to finding solutions for both renters and their landlords. In the near future, the Center will be announcing a new partnership with a national organization that will give us the opportunity to offer low-interest loans to tenants facing financial hardship.