Renters will have a little more time to get their monthly payments together — and they can now use their security deposits to help. But state leaders have still stopped short of calling for rents to be waived in the midst of a global coronavirus pandemic.
Doing that, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during Thursday's daily COVID-19 briefing, could create a host of other issues, especially with landlords.
"None of these decisions are easy," Cuomo said. "The landlord will say, 'OK, now the tenant doesn't pay the rent, I still have to pay the electric bill, and I'm still going to have to pay the mortgage. There is no value trade-off between the tenants and the landlords. On a human level, I don't want to see people and their children evicted at this time through no fault of their own."
Cuomo extended his order prohibiting residential and commercial evictions based on failure to pay rent until Aug. 20. In his revised executive order, the governor also waived any late payment fees, and provided an option for tenants to use security deposit funds to help offset lost rent, with a caveat the tenant would replenish that security deposit over time.
"June, for many people, is just next month when the next bill is going to come due," Cuomo said. "No one can be evicted for non-payment of rent because of COVID until Aug. 20, and we'll see what happens between now and then."
The hope is that much of the state will be open again by then, Cuomo said, as the first phase of his overall reopening plan affecting some construction and manufacturing companies is set to kick off next week. If that goes well, and hospitalization numbers related to the coronavirus remain stable, later plans will roll out opening other businesses, on a two-week rolling basis.
"In the interim, everyone is just making due, and everyone has hardships," Cuomo said. "We just want to make sure that the people who are most vulnerable are protected."
The governor's announcement came just as the city's Rent Guidelines Board made a preliminary decision to freeze rent on nearly a million rent-regulated apartments. Votes were split 5-4, according to published reports, but ultimately supported Mayor Bill de Blasio's position that rent prices remain flat in light of the coronavirus crisis.
Owners had asked for increases ranging from 2 to 5.5 percent, depending on the duration of the lease, according to news reports. They added a commitment to not collect any increase in rents until next year.
Two organizations representing some 30,000 owners and managers — the Community Housing Improvement Program and the Rent Stabilization Association of New York City, blasted the vote in a statement released late Thursday evening.
"With tonight's preliminary vote, the Rent Guidelines Board demonstrated that it is playing politics and not interested in using real data and facts to make informed decisions," the groups said. "Small property owners throughout this city are facing increasing costs to run their buildings, and a rent freeze is ultimately going to delay the city's recovery."
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