Residential tenants paying rent (or maybe not)

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member

After “shock and awe” of coronavirus, more tenants paying April rent
Rent payments rose to 84%, according to a new survey, but landlords are bracing for a bigger shortfall in May

After an initial “shock and awe” of the coronavirus crisis, tenants across the US have now paid 84 percent of rent in April, according to a new report. Landlords are bracing for a rougher May. (Credit: iStock)
Landlords may be breathing a sigh of relief.
April rent payments across the country are down 7 percent compared with the previous month, according to the latest figures from the National Multifamily Housing Committee’s rental tracker.

(Click to enlarge)
In the first week of April, just 69 percent of rent payments were made. But those numbers have improved significantly, according to the NMH, which compiles numbers from several national rental data firms, totaling 11.5 million apartment units nationwide.
By the second week of April, rent payment rose to 84 percent, compared to 90 percent at the same time last year. The data tracks the percentage of tenants who paid some portion of their rent.
Elizabeth Francisco, president of property management platform ResMan, attributed the lag in rent payments to the “shock and awe” of the coronavirus crisis. “There are a lot of factors that go into it — the flexibility of office staff and technology available for online payments contributed to an initial hesitation from consumers,” said Francisco, whose firm contributed to the data project.

Landlords had been bracing for a big rent shortfall in April, and although some have said their rents are down significantly, many others have been pleasantly surprised by the steady flow of checks.

That may change in May, as the unemployment rolls grow, and calls for rent strikes get louder.
The NMH numbers don’t break down rent payments by specific geographic areas. But Greg Willett, chief economist at RealPage, said the data his company provided revealed the biggest rent collection struggles were in New York and Louisiana, two places hit hardest by the virus.
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member

Tenant Advocates
Call For Mass Rent Strike On May 1st, As Landlords Seek Bailout


New York tenant leaders are planning a “massive wave of rent strikes” across the state, the latest escalation in a campaign to force action from Governor Andrew Cuomo as he continues to resist calls to lift rent obligations for those financially impacted by the coronavirus public health crisis.

With just two weeks before next month’s rent deadline, the Upstate/Downstate Housing Alliance and the Met Council on Housing launched a pledge on Thursday urging New York tenants to collectively withhold their rent on May 1st, regardless of whether they can pay.

The largely unprecedented organizing effort would send convulsions through New York’s already cracking rental market and, in theory, leave Cuomo with no choice but to take action. It comes as the number of New York residents who’ve applied for unemployment in recent weeks skyrocketed past one million. Many of them are still unable to access the state's benefit system.

“What's happening is that millions of people can't pay rent, and we're trying to turn that into a moment of collective noncompliance,” Cea Weaver, the campaign coordinator for Housing Justice for All, told Gothamist. “It’s more like mass nonviolent civil disobedience than a traditional rent strike.”

The coordinated demands include canceling rent and allowing tenants the opportunity to renew their leases for the duration of the crisis, along with permanently rehousing homeless New Yorkers. Progressive leaders on the federal level, including Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have backed such measures.

For his part, Cuomo has repeatedly stated the "rent issue" was solved by halting evictions for three months — a solution that housing attorneys say will result in a tidal wave of eviction cases once the moratorium is lifted. He has so far declined to support a bill with bipartisan support that would cancel rent payments and provide relief to landlords as well. Inquiries to his office about the proposed action were not returned.

Some rent strikes are already underway in parts of the city. In one Crown Heights building, as many as 30 of 32 units plan to withhold rent from their landlord Isaac Schwartz, whose Brooklyn real estate portfolio totals over $87 million, beginning next month.

“The governor doesn’t listen to tenants, so we’re trying to create a crisis of capital that will get some of these landlords in his ear and move this issue to his desk,” said Maxwell Papperella, a resident of the building who helped organize the strike using a toolkit provided by Housing Justice for All.

As an estimated 40 percent of New York residents struggle to pay rent, landlord groups are also petitioning the state for emergency assistance. Earlier this week, the Real Estate Board of New York delivered a letter to the governor calling for a bailout, which would include both rent and mortgage forbearance and property tax relief. Landlord organizations say that a widespread rent strike would be devastating.

"This is a chaotic time and the last thing we need is more chaos, which is what will happen with a massive rent strike,” Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP), a landlord group, told Gothamist. “Many renters have already been able to pay their rent. Those who can't have worked with our members to get help. A rent strike helps no one.”

But while REBNY and CHIP claim that landlords are working with tenants facing hardship, many city renters say that has not been their experience. One REBNY member has allegedly sought to jack up rent by 25 percent to take advantage of new “demand” created by proximity to a makeshift hospital. Another has attempted to deregulate units where protected tenants have lived for years, according to residents.

Beyond asking for short-term rent cancellation, the proposed rent strike will also aim to secure concessions, such as good cause eviction and a two-year rent freeze, in the likely event of a landlord bailout, organizers said.

“People are not going to pay rent on May 1st, either alone or not alone,” said Weaver. “That can happen in a managed way or a chaotic way. So, what does that management look like? Does it protect private real estate interests or does it protect us?”
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member

Inside the national rent-strike movement: Red thermometers, tenant manuals & more
"To have a fighting chance with the state, tenants will need to be organized on a mass scale that is not there currently.”

The Philadelphia Tenants Union recognizes that not all tenants have the stomach for an all-out rent strike just yet. So in a new manifesto, it suggests “baby step” collective action to help them get there.
“Escalating actions help,” the union wrote in the manual released last week, at a time when landlords are grappling with nonpayment of rent. “Many tenants who are hesitant about an action that is ‘too radical’ may be radicalized when the group decides to settle on a less scary step first, and find it doesn’t meet their needs.” The union suggests incremental efforts such as “simultaneously paying rent late on the same day” and “car protest circling landlord’s house” and offers a thermometer graphic to help tenants keep progress on the way to a rent strike. The maximal point? “Celebrate victory!”
(Credit: Philadelphia Tenants Union’s COVID-19 Organizing Guide)

(Credit: Philadelphia Tenants Union’s COVID-19 Organizing Guide)
Across the country, tenants are ditching door-to-door outreach in deference to social distancing and instead taking their organizing virtual. They’re hatching plans over Zoom, creating digital guides for rent strikes and drumming up support on messaging apps. But the rent strikes now underway — there are at least 71 across the country, while a New York petition to cancel rent has garnered nearly 90,000 signatures — bear little resemblance to conventional ones, which are mostly used to pressure individual landlords into making necessary repairs. Although landlords will certainly take a hit if tenants skip rent en masse, the intended target of this new wave of strikes is the government itself. Tenants hope that sustained and organized pressure will lead lawmakers to cancel rent and forgive mortgage payments.
“To have a fighting chance with the state, tenants will need to be organized on a mass scale that is not there currently.”
“The state will intervene, as it already has, but it will most likely intervene in favor of bailing out landlords and the housing market rather than tenants,” the Philadelphia union’s manual states. “To have a fighting chance with the state, tenants will need to be organized on a mass scale that is not there currently.”
Systemic shock
As the pandemic cripples the economy and puts millions out of work — 17 million people applied for unemployment benefits in the past three weeks alone, according to the Department of Labor — multifamily landlords are bracing for the consequences.
(More)
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member

“Disgusting”: Industry accuses rent-strike leaders of exploiting crisis
Action would damage city, landlords and tenants, say real estate leaders

Real estate industry leaders slammed tenants’ call for a May rent strike, deeming it political opportunism that could backfire.

While multifamily landlords are depending on tenants to pay rent if they are able — as 84 percent did in early April, one survey found — advocacy group Housing Justice for All seeks to drive that number toward zero. That could put vulnerable tenants at risk for damaged credit and eviction down the road, said David Schwartz, principal of affordable housing developer Slate Property Group.

“If they really cared about the less fortunate, they would come up with a plan to forgive rent for those who lost their jobs, and if that were the message, landlords would get behind it,” said Schwartz. “But this is a group focused much more on their own ideological interests. They don’t believe in rent … or even the police.

The rent strike is a gamble, intended to pressure the government to provide relief for tenants who need it. But Sherwin Belkin, a partner at real estate law firm Belkin Burden Goldman, said he has been encouraged by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s statements urging tenants to pay rent if they can.

Belkin also warned that if lawmakers impose a rent-canceling measure, it would have “serious constitutional infirmities.”

The lawyer said that by and large, multifamily property owners are working with tenants hurt by the shut-down that Cuomo ordered last month and extended Thursday through May 15.

“In light of the receptiveness of owners to work with tenants actually suffering hardship, encouraging the withholding of rent by those who can pay is mean-spirited at best,” Belkin said. “I also wonder if the next strike will be against paying for groceries or medication. I assume not, because vilifying property owners is the easy and cheap political tactic.”

Jacques Ohayon, who owns 50 apartments on the Upper West Side, suspects the strike threat is intended to pressure Cuomo into continuing a current eviction moratorium beyond 90 days. He said he supports rent relief on a case-by-case basis for tenants who are unemployed.

“Blanket forgiveness is a dangerous precedent,” he said. “Yes they deserve a break, but please consider the flip side.”

The flip side, said Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Project, is that rent pays for building services — such as emergency cleanings during pandemics — and property taxes that sustain the city.

Martin criticized rent-strike organizers for “bragging on social media” that they have enough money to pay rent but are withholding payments out of solidarity with tenants who cannot.

“It’s kind of disgusting,” the landlord group’s director said. “It seems as if they are trying to use this crisis to further their political agenda.”

The Durst Organization’s Jordan Barowitz forecast the ramifications of the plan, which is also backed by advocacy group New York Communities for Change.

“A rent strike would disproportionately impact smaller landlords and pummel the city’s property tax collections by sending buildings into foreclosure,” he said in a statement. “It would cause thousands of 32BJ and municipal workers to lose their jobs including teachers, cops and firefighters.” The union SEIU 32BJ represents building service workers.
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member

Bill seeks rent and mortgage forgiveness across U.S.
Rep. Omar’s measure would also create landlord relief fund

A Minnesota member of Congress is calling for a suspension of rent and mortgage obligations across the country through the end of the coronavirus pandemic.

Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar on Friday proposed a bill that would cancel rent and mortgage payments starting April 1 until 30 days after the end of the federal state of emergency.

The measure would create a landlord and lender relief fund to make up for the rent and mortgage forgiveness through the period. But landlords who apply for relief must agree to freeze rents for five years, abide by “just cause” eviction rules (a controversial measure pushed by tenant advocates in New York), offer vacant units to public housing tenants receiving rental assistance and follow other fair housing rules.

“Already calls for a rent strike are echoing across the country, as tenants withhold payments indefinitely,” Omar said during a press conference Friday. “The federal government needs to act now to prevent a full collapse of our housing market.”

The measure would offer total rent and mortgage forgiveness, and bar landlords and lenders from reporting non-payment to consumer reporting agencies to protect renters’ and owners’ credit scores.

The bill is co-sponsored by eight fellow Democrats: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Grace Meng of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Veronica Escobar of Texas and Jesús “Chuy” García of Chicago.

Tenant organizers in New York and Philadelphia are pushing for a mass rent strike on May 1. In mid-March, New York enacted a 90-day eviction moratorium.

Some landlords are getting forbearance on mortgages insured by Freddie Mac — a program which was extended through the end of the year. Though New York’s top multifamily lender, New York Community Bank, has offered a similar break to its borrowers, the state government hasn’t mandated forbearance from all private lenders.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders has called for a freeze on rent and mortgage payments as part of the next federal stimulus package.
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member

Mayor: “I don’t agree with a rent strike”
De Blasio says withholding payment would hurt landlords and tenants

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday sided with landlords against tenant advocates who are pushing for a massive rent strike next month.

“I agree with those saying the state needs to act. I don’t agree with a rent strike because there’s too many folks who are trying to keep their buildings going,” the mayor said on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show.

De Blasio continued, “There’s a lot of smaller landlords in particular who if they don’t have any income coming in, they’re not going to be able to keep their buildings going. And then you have a very bad situation for everyone.” The mayor is a landlord himself: He and his wife have several tenants between their two row houses in Park Slope.

Tenant organizer Cea Weaver, who is helping to round up strike participants, told The Real Deal this week that collective action by tenants would put pressure on Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has insisted tenants pay rent if they can. “We are trying to get the millions of people who are already not paying rent to do that together,” she said.

And Jonathan Westin, executive director of advocacy group New York Communities for Change, said, “We are forcing a confrontation. If millions do not pay their rent, the state will have to step in.”
But de Blasio would not sign on to that strategy. Instead, he reiterated his call for the state to extend its 90-day moratorium on evictions for 60 days beyond the coronavirus crisis and to allow renters to tap into their
security deposits to cover rent.

He also repeated his advice to the city’s Rent Guidelines Board to freeze rents for rent-stabilized apartments. When asked if the state could do the same for non-regulated apartments, de Blasio said he was unsure if Albany has that authority.

De Blasio added that he has suggested measures would “achieve the same impact.”

“We’’ve been pushing the state to come up with a plan that if you’re unable to pay rent, you don’t have to until you have income back and then you pay on a payment plan to repay over time,” he said.

Landlord groups called the rent-strike effort “disgusting” and said it could damage tenants’ credit ratings and lead to a flood of eviction cases once the state’s moratorium is lifted.

Tenant advocates in Pennsylvania are also pushing for a rent strike May 1.
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member

Majority of Americans support Ilhan Omar’s nationwide rent cancellation bill, poll shows: TRD Insights
Nearly 66% of Democrats and 42% of Republicans support suspending and eliminating rent payments for duration of pandemic, according to Data for Progress survey

A slight majority of Americans would support federal legislation to suspend and cancel rent payments for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s according to a poll conducted by the progressive think tank Data for Progress. The group asked 1,086 online respondents their opinion on the key provisions of Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s rent bill, proposed last week, calls for a cancellation of rents between April 1 and 30 days after the end of national emergency gets lifted.


Notably, the proposal received majority support from nearly every subgroup polled.

Fifty-five percent of respondents said they would support federal rent cancellation, and were joined in their sentiments by majorities of women, men, voters over and under age 45, non-college-educated voters, college-educated voters, black voters and white voters.


Pluralities of voters broken down by party also support the bill. Nearly two-thirds of Democrats and more than or 42 percent, of Republicans said they would support a federal rent cancellation bill.
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member

What rent shortfall? Nearly 9 in 10 resi tenants paid in April
Survey of rental payments for 11.5 million apartments shows no disaster yet

Grim forecasts of apartment rent shortfalls have not come to pass, according to data released today: Some 89 percent of tenants made payments in April.
The New York Times warned the world that 40 percent of renters in the U.S. would be unable to pay rent in April, but the figure was based on guesses from a survey, not data. The National Multifamily Housing Council found that by April 19, the overwhelming majority of tenants in the 11.5 million rental apartments it surveyed paid at least some rent.
The 89 percent figure was virtually unchanged from the 91 percent who made payments in the previous month through March 12, and a five-point increase in April payments through April 12, when the D.C.-based lobby group reported that 84 percent had ponied up.
The incremental increases indicate that renters may have been withholding some rent, possibly waiting for the arrival of unemployment benefits or federal stimulus checks.
Despite the rosier-than-expected rent levels reported by the National Multifamily Housing Council, the survey represents barely a quarter of the nation’s 43 million renter households. Many tenants may have been laid off or had their pay cut since paying April rent. In the last half of March and first two weeks of April, some 22 million people lost their jobs, according to the Department of Labor.

Property owners whose tenants are less affluent have reported more significant drops in rent, with collections as low as 50 percent for some multifamily property owners, according to Victor Sozio, executive vice president of Manhattan-based multifamily brokerage Ariel Property Advisors.

New York City landlords, especially those whose portfolios are rent-stabilized, including Bronstein, which has around 5,000 such units, reported a significant decline in April rent. Evictions have been suspended in the state, reducing pressure on tenants to pay and effectively preventing landlords from replacing tenants who don’t pay.

But the Community Housing Improvement Program, a New York-based group representing smaller landlords, told Crain’s that no more than 10 percent of its members’ tenants had sought to delay their payments.
Still, with the economy continuing to deteriorate, landlords are eyeing May 1 with apprehension.
Some tenant groups from around the country, meanwhile, are working to persuade renters who could pay to withhold their rent to pressure state and local governments to provide more relief for tenants (and landlords). Members of the real estate industry have criticized the effort, with one calling it “disgusting.”
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member

Signature Bank: Collections down 50 percent in rent-stabilized apartments
Its market-rate apartments fared better, but 14 percent of all borrowers requested deferrals

Signature Bank, which holds nearly $15 billion in multifamily loans, reported that rent collection from rent-regulated apartments has taken a beating.

That contributed to the bank’s reporting net income for the first quarter of just $99.6 million, down from $143.5 million for the same period last year.

Fourteen percent of Signature Bank’s $50 billion loan portfolio has asked for deferrals on payments. The bank is granting deferral of principal and interest for three months and adding it to the end of the loan, but could extend deferrals to six months if the crisis is prolonged.

Rents collected from rent-stabilized apartments were at just 50 percent of normal levels in April, said Joseph DePaolo, Signature’s president. Market-rate apartments fared better, with collection at closer to 80 percent. Fifty percent of Signature Bank’s multifamily portfolio is rent-stabilized, DePaolo said. There are about 1 million rent-stabilized apartments in New York City.

Despite the shortfalls, as unemployment claims in the U.S. topped 26 million in the last month, DePaolo maintained that its borrowers have faced crises before — and are prepared for the downturn.
“We view this as temporary,” DePaolo said. “Those that do not survive are clients of others, not ours.”

Community banks such as Signature Bank have long been the go-to lenders for New York City’s rent-stabilized landlords. DePaolo said that the bank has some large, multi-generational clients who have owned multiple apartment buildings for decades. He said those clients have not asked for deferrals — and in fact are “waiting on the sidelines” to buy distressed assets on the cheap from less well-situated multifamily property owners.

“Our clients are going to be doing the buying, not the selling,” said DePaolo. “They’re not on Fifth Avenue. It’s not going to be an issue for them to buy at a discount.” (The Fifth Avenue reference was apparently to struggling owners of high-end retail property.)

But DePaolo’s confidence in his borrowers’ financial footing could be shaken if more tenants withhold their rents, a possibility that he addressed on the earnings call.
“We think [rent levels] have stabilized, but not if everyone’s going to go on a rent strike on May 1,” said DePaolo. “But we don’t believe most people want to do that.”

Tenant groups are trying to launch a mass strike in May to persuade lawmakers to cancel rent and mortgage payments — a move that could upend the multifamily market.
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member

REBNY to Council: You can’t extend eviction ban
Real estate group, city’s sheriff says a bill preventing officers from recovering property would allow tenants to remain through April 2021

The Real Estate Board of New York doesn’t think the City Council has the legal authority to bar city sheriffs and marshals from recovering property or executing money judgments against tenants.

But that’s exactly what the City Council is seeking to do in a new bill. The measure would effectively extend the state’s eviction ban through at least Sept. 30, and through April 2021 for tenants affected by Covid-19. REBNY argued on Tuesday that only the state can halt such actions.

“It is a misguided and conceivably, unlawful basis by the Council to usurp state authority,” Ryan Monell, director of city legislative affairs for REBNY, said in written testimony submitted to the city Council.

Testifying during a Council committee hearing on Tuesday, Sheriff Joseph Fucito said the Council bill wouldn’t prevent sheriffs and marshals from abiding court orders to remove a tenant from a property or enforce money judgments.

“I’m not a heartless bill collector, but an officer of the court,” Fucito said. The Office of the Sheriff is a division of the City Finance Department.
Even if the state were to implement a similar policy as proposed by the city, REBNY claims that it could discourage tenants who are financially stable from paying rent.

“The economic consequences of this misimpression could lead to widespread mortgage default, decreased property tax collection, and a subsequent decline in necessary city services for quality of life for tenants across the city,” according to the testimony.

“The economic consequences of this misimpression could lead to widespread mortgage default, decreased property tax collection, and a subsequent decline in necessary city services for quality of life for tenants across the city,” according to the testimony.

Housing and Building Committee Chair Robert Cornegy said the city has a “delicate balance to strike” between providing renters relief and ensuring that small landlords are protected. Michael McKee, treasurer of the Tenants Political Action Committee, noted that “mom and pop” landlords need protection.

“We think the big landlords like Blackstone can take a haircut,” he said during the hearing.

Though much of the hearing hinged on a disagreement over the city’s legal authority, there seemed to be consensus about the need for further action on the part of higher levels of government.
 

villager

Member
My collections for April and May rents are 100%. However, some of my 1099 tenants have expressed concerns regarding June and thereafter. Many of them are still waiting on NY unemployment and applications still pending since early March. Apparently it's impossible to reach anyone at the labor agency and they don't call back as promised by Cuomo. It's crazy because my tenants actually have good jobs (ie, adjunct professor, associate dentist, cafe owner, etc.) and some even have families. They are depleting their savings and it's still unclear when the economy will reopen and get back to 'normal'. I have underlying mortgages on all my properties but do have sufficient reserves and collect a salary from my FT job so I'm able to keep myself afloat for a while. But I'm now starting to get worried myself.
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member
New York State doesn't have the money to pay those unemployment claims.

New York does not have enough money to pay unemployment benefits, governor says
From CNN's Elizabeth Joseph

New York does not have enough money to pay for unemployment as more and more people continue to file for benefits, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a news briefing Monday.
“We’re out of money now,” Cuomo told a reporter when asked when the state would run out of money to provide unemployment benefits. “We are now running a $10 to 15 billion deficit, so we’re out of money now," he added.
“That’s why the federal government has to provide funding – because we don’t have the money,” he said.
As of Friday, New York has paid out $3.1 billion in unemployment benefits, said Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor.
Some context: A $480 billion coronavirus relief package was signed into law earlier this week, but didn't include money state leaders could use for basic operations — something several governors have spoken out against.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN yesterday there will be another federal emergency relief bill that will include money for state and local governments that are facing budget deficits, despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying he did not want to issue more federal aid.
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member

#CancelRent Is New Rallying Cry for Tenants. Landlords Are Alarmed.
From New York to Los Angeles, tenant groups are encouraging millions of renters to withhold May rent, which landlords warn would be devastating.

As unemployment soars across the country, tenants rights groups and community nonprofits have rallied around an audacious goal: to persuade the government to halt rent and mortgage payments — without back payments accruing — for as long as the economy is battered by the coronavirus.
The effort has been brewing on social media, with the hashtag #CancelRent and online video rallies, as well as a smattering of in-person protests, frequently held in cars to maintain social distancing.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, offered a fervent endorsement of the campaign, encouraging her progressive base to embrace a movement to upend the housing market.
“It’s not that it’s impossible to do and it’s not that we can’t do it,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said in a live video on her Facebook page on Monday. “We lack enough politicians with political will to actually help people who are tenants and actually help people who are mom-and-pop landlords.”

But in New York and other cities, landlords say they too are struggling to pay their bills since many tenants have already been unable to pay rent. They call the advocates’ efforts reckless and say that withholding rent would create cascading consequences, including leaving property owners without the means to pay mortgages and property taxes or to maintain buildings.
Still, from New York to Kansas City to Los Angeles, groups are encouraging tenants to withhold payments on Friday, the due date for May rent, aiming to create pressure for an expansion of affordable housing and tenant-friendly legislation.

To cancel rent and mortgage payments, the federal government would have to take sweeping and possibly unconstitutional intervention in the housing and financial markets, interceding in private contracts and ordering banks and landlords not to collect money.

While the prospect of this happening is low, the campaigns are less about pushing a particular piece of legislation and more about kindling a mass movement akin to the Occupy Wall Street protests that followed the 2008 financial crisis.

“Rent is not being paid, and the organizing strategy is figuring out how we rally around that and politicize it for our benefit,” said Tara Raghuveer, director of the Homes Guarantee campaign of People’s Action, a national network of local advocacy organizations.
Groups from California to New York have amassed a sizable following of renters who say they will skip May rent. They have also received a boost from progressive members of Congress, who introduced a cancel rent bill.
“It’s a moment that people are literally rising up for real transformation in the housing market,” said Cea Weaver, the campaign coordinator at Housing Justice for All, a New York group.

Though nascent, the movement has alarmed landlords, especially smaller property owners who say that they, like many of their tenants, also survive month to month.

“When government officials say, ‘Cancel rent,’” said Jay Martin, the executive director of Community Housing Improvement Program, which represents 4,000 New York City landlords, “they are essentially saying that we are canceling the ability for you to pay the bills we are putting on you.”
Mr. Martin said that if tenants’ rights organizers wanted to target a main driver of high housing costs, they should encourage elected officials to cut property taxes. A recent report by the New York City’s Rent Guidelines Board said that about 30 percent of a landlord’s expenses for rent-regulated apartments go toward property taxes.
New York, which has more housing units than any place in the United States, is a city of renters: There are nearly 2.2 million rental units in the city. Mr. Martin said that no landlord he knows would want to evict a tenant in this economy.

“Landlords are being made the scapegoat for all the problems,” he said.
Joseph Strasburg, the president of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 landlords in New York City, warned that a rent strike would “create an economic and housing pandemic.”
“The city and its residential housing landscape will crumble into an economic abyss worse than the 1970s, when New York was the national poster child for urban blight,” Mr. Strasburg said.
As bad as the economy is, rental payments in April were better than many landlords expected.
As businesses laid off employees, property owners reported a steep drop in rent collections, with close to a third of tenants behind as of the first week of April, according to a survey by the National Multifamily Housing Council, a trade group for big apartment owners.
But by month’s end, after stimulus payments and unemployment checks started flowing, the nationwide nonpayment rate was only three percentage points below where it was a year ago.

Still, those numbers probably understate the stress, as various surveys show that landlords have deferred rent, offered concessions or used security deposits to cover missed payments. And tenants have increasingly used credit cards to cover their bills.
Vincia Barber, 39, who lost her nanny job for a family in New York City that decided to move to California during the pandemic, said that she has decided to join the rent strike.
She pays $1,877 for a rent-stabilized apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, that she shares with her 14-year-old daughter. There is mold growing on the bathroom walls, and they cannot open windows because of the stench of garbage behind the building, she said.
“Something needs to change,” Ms. Barber said. “If it’s not now during the Covid-19 epidemic, then I don’t know what it’s going to take for the governor and mayor to do something.”

Rent strike or not, tens of millions of people will be under severe rent stress in May.
Looking to rally people digitally, on Thursday, the Action Center on Race & the Economy, which acts as a campaign hub for advocacy organizations, unveiled WeStrikeTogether.org, a website that will accumulate the various May rent strikes into a nationwide heat map.
People who sign up will be directed to a list of resources and be routed to local housing organizations to try and build more support for the #CancelRent campaign.
“The traditional definition of a rent strike is someone who is choosing not to pay for whatever reason, and we’re defining it more broadly here to help people see that it’s a political choice not to help folks who can’t pay rent,” said Maurice BP-Weeks, co-executive director of the action center.
It’s not as if tenants have lacked support: The $2 trillion CARES Act distributed expanded unemployment insurance and the stimulus payments, along with aid to public-housing providers and grants that states can use for rental assistance.
Still, tenant organizers and landlords are pushing for direct housing assistance.
Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, introduced the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, which would relieve tenants of their obligation to pay rent, transfer mortgages to the federal government and allow landlords to recoup their rent costs — but only if they agree to a vast new regulatory program that includes a rent freeze and the inability to collect back payments.
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member

Cuomo extends eviction moratorium, promises landlord relief
Governor indicated that the state is working on “relief from the banks for landlords”

Facing pressure from tenant advocates, Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended the state’s moratorium on evictions for at least another two months.

The governor said the moratorium on residential and commercial evictions — for non-payment of rent due to Covid-19 — will last through August 20. He also announced a ban on fees for late or missed rent payments during the moratorium, as well as the option for tenants to tap into their security deposits to pay rent (though those deposits would ultimately need to be repaid). He said he was unsure if the moratorium would be extended beyond August.

When asked about relief for landlords who might struggle to make mortgage payments without rent revenue, Cuomo indicated that the state is working on “relief from the banks for landlords also” and as well as for banks. He didn’t go into specifics but said that, “We stopped the foreclosures on the landlords.”

In March, the state had ordered that state-chartered banks give borrowers a break on mortgage payments for 90 days. More specific details on halted foreclosures for landlords were not immediately available.

The governor noted that there’s a “tradeoff between the tenants and the landlord” and that there’s a need to protect those who are “most vulnerable.”

“We have to make sure those people are protected,” Cuomo said. “The number one issue people talk to me about, probably is rent. This takes this issue off the table until August 20.”

Last week, protestors interrupted Cuomo’s daily press conference, calling on the governor to outright cancel rent payment obligations. At the time, Cuomo pointed to the eviction ban as the state’s form of renter relief.

Legislators have proposed a measure that would forgive rent and mortgage payments, rather than delay obligations. As it stands, the eviction moratorium doesn’t prevent landlords from demanding repayment of rent. It’s unclear what actions the state will take once the ban expires.

“I can’t tell you what’s going to happen two three months down the road,” Cuomo said. “Whatever happens we will handle it at the time.”
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member
Buried in this article:
You'll find the statement:
"American Homes 4 Rent also announced that it has collected 95 percent and 82 percent of April and May rents, respectively."

So between April and May non-payment increased 440% (for that company). That seems like an enormous increase to me.
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member

Mayor’s tweet on rent payments triggers angry reaction
Call for 12-month deferral leaves landlords irate and tenants unsatisfied

Sometimes a mayor can’t win. This mayor, anyway.

Bill de Blasio managed to upset landlords and tenants alike by tweeting that rent payments should be postponed for a year.

Thursday’s tweet triggered hundreds of comments from irate landlords saying he had gone too far — and from tenants saying he had not gone far enough.

A good number called for the mayor to quit. “How can you encourage tenants not to pay rent for 12 months?” one asked. “Are you sick? Are you out of your mind? Donate your salary, you are evil. Resign.”

De Blasio’s post first took credit for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order extending a 90-day ban on evictions for nonpayment of rent through Aug. 20.

“Yes! Yes! Yes! From putting security deposits towards rent to expanding eviction bans, we’ve been pushing Albany to take bold action for tenants. Thank you @NYGovCuomo for heeding the call,” de Blasio tweeted, no doubt aware that Cuomo hates when the mayor claims that he pressured the governor to act.

But if that upset Cuomo, what the mayor wrote next set off landlords and tenants:

“Now’s the time to go even further,” de Blasio continued. “Tenants are hurting. We need to let every New Yorker who needs it to be able to defer rent payments for up to 12 months.”


Mayor Bill de Blasio

✔@NYCMayor


Now’s the time to go even further. Tenants are hurting. We need to let every New Yorker who needs it to be able to defer rent payments for up to 12 months.

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12:39 PM - May 7, 2020
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NY1 anchor Errol Louis quickly pointed out the consequences of such a policy. “That would be one helluva balloon payment due on day 366,” he observed dryly.

That is why many tenants want rent canceled outright. “Thank you, Mayor. However, this is a stopgap measure,” wrote @Mamapickney. “He should cancel rent until people are able to be back to work.” The mayor, however, does not have that power.

Tenant @AGtweet2 agreed, writing, “Postponed rent will not help us.” She added: “The rent will accumulate only. How will we pay when this ends?”

Numerous other comments called for rent to be canceled. “What’s the point in using my security deposit to pay rent when I’ll just have to pay it back over time?” asked @JerryMandre. “I will NEVER make this money back. I will FOREVER be in debt. You need to CANCEL RENT.”

The mayor has not called for that and has advised against a rent strike, saying it would hurt small landlords. The mayor is one himself; he rents out his two Brooklyn properties and has continued to collect full rent from his tenants, who are employed. But his tweets Thursday appear to have wiped out any goodwill previously engendered from property owners.

Tenant @AGtweet2 agreed, writing, “Postponed rent will not help us.” She added: “The rent will accumulate only. How will we pay when this ends?”
Numerous other comments called for rent to be canceled. “What’s the point in using my security deposit to pay rent when I’ll just have to pay it back over time?” asked @JerryMandre. “I will NEVER make this money back. I will FOREVER be in debt. You need to CANCEL RENT.”
The mayor has not called for that and has advised against a rent strike, saying it would hurt small landlords. The mayor is one himself; he rents out his two Brooklyn properties and has continued to collect full rent from his tenants, who are employed. But his tweets Thursday appear to have wiped out any goodwill previously engendered from property owners.

“When you have a government taxpayer-funded mansion to live in [it] makes it easier to say things,” observed @Rudraksha7. “Have you thought about the landlords who depend on rent as their only source of income?”
Many of the comments conveyed landlords’ argument that they need rent to pay their own bills: mortgage, insurance, taxes, maintenance and the like.
“I guess landlords have a money tree in their backyard?” huffed @TheActor_movie. “UNCONSCIONABLE!”

“I’m a small landlord that goes paycheck to paycheck, and I cut $500 off [the rent] and my tenant still owes me $200,” lamented @mkz168. “But my bill is still there, my mortgage payment is still there. I lost my job [the] same as my tenant, and the UI [unemployment insurance] is broken for both of us. So we’re both screwed.”
One small landlord, @blueandgreennyc, asked, “Who’s going to bail homeowners out?” He said he’s counting on his two apartments to pay for his children’s education but his tenants “quote the mayor and governor and smirk at me. They are getting unemployment and a stimulus.”

Others were less subtle in their opinions of de Blasio and Cuomo.
“Let’s just all agree that they are the worst,” wrote @jjbigs28. “This is not a solution to the problem at all. RESIGN RESIGN RESIGN!”
A number of commenters were especially upset that de Blasio began his tweet with such glee.
“This actually makes me sick,” wrote @veryQueeny. “Where’s the YES! YES! YES! FOR LANDLORDS????? Do we not exist?”
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member

Landlords battle rent strikes across the U.S.
As the “cancel rent” movement gains traction from New York to Kansas City, property owners are organizing and counteracting

Holding a yellow rope to keep six feet apart, tenant advocates in Missouri slowly wound their way to the governor’s mansion in April.

After a series of virtual demonstrations, and even a protest where activists parked on the shoulder of a major highway between Kansas City and St. Louis, the advocates were calling on Gov. Michael Parson to suspend rent and mortgage payment obligations and halt evictions statewide. The group, KC Tenants, carried a large poster labeled “Eviction Notice” and attached it to the mansion’s front gate.

“We are taking a risk because we have no other choice,” said Wilson Vance, one of the group’s tenant organizers, about the escalation from virtual to in-person demonstrations. “The stakes are just really high, so it’s time to turn the heat up.”

Similar protests have sprouted up across the country as unemployment claims surge to more than 33 million since March and tenants find themselves unable to pay rent. According to We Strike Together, an organization that has been tracking the national movement, more than 190,000 rent and mortgage strikes have surfaced since the pandemic hit.

It’s not clear how many tenants have withheld rent, but the data available paints a somewhat promising picture for property owners. Roughly 80 percent of 11.4 million households surveyed by the National Multifamily Housing Council reported that they paid all or part of their rent by early May, according to the landlord trade group. But multifamily lenders have reported significant declines in collections, especially among lower-income tenants.

Washington’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act has provided some help to tenants by sending out stimulus checks and supplementing unemployment benefits by $600 a week through July 31.

While advocates argue this relief doesn’t go far enough, real estate groups counter that little has been done for landlords, who have temporarily lost the ability to evict tenants in several states including New York, Florida, California, Pennsylvania and Colorado.

And as state governments face mounting pressure from advocates and elected officials to respond more boldly to the pandemic, property owners face not only rent shortfalls, but uncertainty over whether they will receive relief if rent strikes gain traction.

In response, landlords have lobbied for breaks on property tax and mortgage payments. And in the extreme, even threatened to withhold property tax payments to put counter pressure on elected officials.

“It all trickles down. Rent pays the landlord, who pays the property taxes, which pays for our first responders,” said Diamelyn Cepero, a real estate attorney in Miami. “Ultimately, all tenants are going to need to pay.”

Targeted strikes

Calls for a mass rent strike started to emerge in several cities in April. In New York, the tenant coalition Housing Justice for All set out to coordinate the efforts of financially-strapped tenants to pay rent and target buildings owned by specific landlords, including Related Companies and Kushner Companies. The group deemed that these and other owners could weather the financial hit.

“Tenants are unable to pay rent, period,” Cea Weaver, a tenant organizer with the group, said during a video panel hosted by The Real Deal in early May.

“When we say rent strike,” she added, “what we are saying is that we’re turning a moment where people cannot pay into a moment of political activity and turning our individual inability to pay into collective action, calling on the government to intervene.”

On the same panel, real estate developer Francis Greenburger countered that point.

“People who are without need — to give them relief is nonsensical,” said the longtime developer and industry advocate. “Let’s identify the real needs, and let’s address them though government help, through private help, rather than some blanket approach that makes the problem five times worse than it is.”

But the tenant movements are gaining momentum. The New York petition now has more than 15,000 signatures. And a national rent strike map has documented nearly 200,000 actions, according to Maurice Weeks, co-executive director of the advocacy group Action Center on Race & the Economy.

In Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Tenants Union decided in favor of a strike but not all of its members agreed that it was the right strategy. Some said that younger, more left-leaning members pushed through a vote without sufficient debate, arguing that tenants who withheld rent, especially poor tenants of color, would be vulnerable to repercussions.

In the end, although four members of the Philadelphia Tenant Union abstained from the vote, the measure to strike passed overwhelmingly.

A growing number of landlords around the country are now seizing on the strikes — a tactic ordinarily used by renters to demand repairs and improved building conditions or combat tenant harassment when all other efforts have failed — calling them political opportunism.

“They are looking to change the housing industry. Nothing they are doing helps the tenant today,” said Stacey Johnson-Cosby, president of KC Housing Alliance, a landlord group in Kansas City. “They are sacrificing all those people in the name of social movement.”

Real estate groups have also repeatedly recommended that tenants work out repayment plans with their landlords. Johnson-Cosby, who owns 20 apartments in the Kansas City area with her husband, said most of her tenants have paid rent in April and May. Her organization has pitched a temporary eviction-prevention program to the city that would provide a one-time payment of $2,400 for the year to tenants unable to pay their rent due to illness, unemployment or familial crises or any combination of those.

“If I have formerly homeless veterans getting their rent paid, that tells me something,” she said.

Other landlords argue that the growing rent strike movements and calls to cancel rent around the country — the latter of which has received support from U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders — will come back to bite tenants, property owners and even state and local governments.

One online petition headlined “Property Tax relief or Tax strike,” for example, now has more than 4,000 signatures supporting a call for the city’s landlords to withhold their property taxes. The Change.org petition blasts politicians for enabling tenants to not pay rent even if they can.

Despite that accusation, New York State Sen. and Housing Committee Chair Brian Kavanagh defended the steps the state has taken. The eviction moratorium is a necessary measure to keep renters from choosing between their home and their health, he said, but should not be confused with a “rent holiday.”

“People have an obligation to pay rent — if they can pay their rent they should,” said Kavanagh. “Similarly, it’s not responsible for property owners to make a point by declining to pay real estate taxes.”

But some say there’s little that can prepare the real estate industry for the potential impact of widespread rent strikes. Even landlords, lenders and property managers relieved by April’s rent collections know that things could fall apart in May.

That’s what Gregg Gerken, head of commercial real estate at TD Bank, foresees — and he warned that financial distress will accelerate if tenants with the means to pay rent withhold it.

“I get concerned with rent strikes,” Gerken, who oversees a $41 billion loan portfolio in the U.S. and Canada. “People are misusing the terms ‘rent deferral’ and ‘rent forgiveness’,” he added. “That’s not what the CARES Act was meant to do. It was meant to help people who need help.”

Questions of authority

Over the past two months, cities and states have handled evictions and calls for rent suspension differently.

While New York halted some evictions for non-payment of rent through mid-August and the city’s rent board recently cast a preliminary vote in favor of freezing rents, other cities and states have left key decisions up to local courts. So far, most local and state governments have shied away from suspending rent or mortgage payment requirements.

In April, the Denver City Council urged the state to suspend rent and mortgage obligations, but Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has asserted that he doesn’t have the legal authority to do so. In a statement to media outlets at the time, a spokesperson for Colorado’s governor indicated that he couldn’t interfere with private contracts. The United States Constitution bars state intrusion into contracts.

Attorney Andrew Pincus, a partner with Mayer Brown who focuses on Supreme Court and state and federal appellate cases, said a temporary suspension of rent would have a better chance of surviving constitutional scrutiny if relief is offered to landlords as well.

(More)
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member
Looks like things are getting worse in the residential non-payment area


About 25% of NYC renters didn’t pay in May: survey
CHIP findings also show about a two-thirds of ground-floor retail tenants failed to pay rent this month

About 25 percent of New York City apartment tenants skipped rent altogether in May, according to a survey by landlord trade group Community Housing Improvement Program. The property owners surveyed comprise about 100,000 apartment units, a small slice of the city’s more than 3 million rental households.
The results compare to a National Multifamily Housing Council report last week that found just 12 percent of tenants at the 11.4 million market-rate properties it tracks failed to make a rent payment for the month.
CHIP’s survey also found that 64% percent of retail ground-floor tenants at those apartment buildings surveyed did not pay May rent. That comes as most New York City businesses remain closed because of the pandemic.

“Unless the federal government steps in to help renters and owners in a big way, we are going to see a housing disaster the likes of which we have never seen,” said Jay Martin, CHIP’s executive director. “Congress must provide financial aid directly to renters and the state must match that with property tax relief for owners or in weeks, not months, we will see buildings going under.”

Rent strikes also may have made a dent in rent collections. Buildings surveyed with active rent strikes saw an additional 10 percent rent decrease. In May, tenant groups publicly targeted landlords they deemed could afford to “take the hit,” and have vowed to intensify the rent strikes in June by targeting corporate landlords.

The findings add to a patchwork of data — gathered by groups that also advocate on behalf of the real estate industry to local, state and federal governments — to track the impact of the coronavirus on rent. While the exact numbers remain unclear, it is evident that many renters are not paying.

Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents landlords, said its members’ May rent collections were down 15 to 20 percent. In several interviews, landlords who own over 30,000 units combined in New York City likewise reported their May rent collections were down by that much.

An exception was Jerry Waxenberg, whose Bronx-based firm owns 2,000 rent-regulated units. His rent collections improved from 74 percent in April to 85 percent in May, which Waxenberg attributed to the steady flow of federally subsidized rents for Section 8 tenants. Most landlords did not want to be identified.

The decrease in rent collections is not unique to New York. In California, a major trade association for property owners also said its members’ collections were lower than the national survey.
“Across the board, anywhere between 10 and 25 percent of residents are not able to pay the rent,” said Tom Bannon, president for the trade group, called California Apartment Association. He noted that smaller buildings saw a larger decrease, while the impact was less for corporate owners of apartments that catered to more affluent tenants.
 
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