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Finger Lakes Landlord Association responds to prospect of rent strikes in New York

– By Josh Durso

Local landlords are responding to ‘age-old’ criticism of their collective behavior, as the coronavirus pandemic causes a major turn in economic realities for folks across the region.

The Finger Lakes Landlord Association calls the stereotype that landlords are a ‘wealthy ruling-class lording over a bunch of peasants’ is inaccurate. “This pervasive and stereotypical view of a landlord is damaging to the whole industry. During the COVID crisis, especially, it undermines the contractual and mutually beneficial landlord-tenant relationship,” they said in a press release.

Deb Hall, who serves as Finger Lakes Landlords Association member and administrator, says the crisis has brought on a lot of uncertainty in the industry, and inaccurate information has brought on new challenges.

Rent strikes have been called for since the pandemic began.

“Most landlords are responsible rental property owners who provide an essential service in our communities. Without homes to rent, within a wide range of price points, thousands of people would be hard pressed to find adequate housing, from rural communities to big cities,” she said.

Hall says public housing and agencies help, but struggle to provide the service at the growing rate it’s demanded across all markets and communities.

“Because of the COVID-related eviction moratorium, which is in effect until mid-June, landlords are working with tenants who legitimately cannot pay their rent,” Hall said. “If a tenant is experiencing hardship because of COVID-related issues like sickness or income loss, they are highly encouraged to contact their landlord now, to work out a deal. However, rent is still due.”

She says landlords reported significant income losses. “Landlords reported an average of 25% loss of income, with some smaller landlords reporting 100% loss of rental income,” an update from the group said. “No rent equals no property taxes.”

The New York landlord and tenant coalition, Under One Roof NY, led by housing provider Deb Pusatere of Albany and legal counsel Jaime Cain of Boylan Code, report that the rental housing  industry continues to face potentially dire economic circumstances that will devastate the affordability, availability, and stability of the rental housing supply in New York.

Landlords, as well as the group are preparing for an uptick in non-payments in May and June.

Finger Lakes Landlords Association has 135 landlord members representing 3,750 units in every county in the region including Monroe and the City of Rochester. Sixty percent of landlords own 15 units or less. “We are the largest small business in town, without a storefront,” states FLLA president and property owner, Stephen Austin. “We need to change the stereotype and rewrite the narrative, as landlords and as an industry.”