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Eviction and foreclosure law could devastate communities

The COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act, adopted by the New York State Legislature and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Dec. 28, is a flagrant violation of people’s property rights and will worsen the housing crisis triggered by the pandemic.

The law, which bans evictions for nearly any reason until at least May 1, will create a host of problems that could have a devastating effect on tenants, landlords and communities.

The law will encourage more tenants to stop paying their rent even if they can afford it, leading to their eventual eviction. These tenants will have a difficult time finding new apartments because landlords will be conducting strict background screenings and requiring proof of on-time rental payments, references from previous landlords and high credit ratings.

The law also jeopardizes the safety of tenants and landlords by removing the legal process for eviction, increasing tensions between them.

Furthermore, the law ignores the reality of landlords having to maintain buildings so tenants can live in them. Some properties will fall into disrepair, placing the tenants at risk. These properties eventually may end up in foreclosure, causing more problems for upstate communities.

Some small landlords in our area already have lost thousands of dollars in rental income in recent months as a result of previously enacted eviction restrictions. Meanwhile, these landlords have to pay property taxes, make mortgage payments and pay for insurance, water use and maintenance costs.

The new law will allow some property owners to delay mortgage payments, but those bills eventually will come due. Meanwhile, most small landlords never will recoup the lost rental income.

Instead of shifting the financial burden of public housing onto small, private landlords, the state should cover the cost of unpaid rent during the pandemic and allow landlords to apply for the subsidies.

Most landlords are willing to work with tenants who are facing hardship. Government restrictions aimed at bankrupting landlords and stripping them of their property and liberty make the situation much worse.

State leaders who care about our democracy should put an end to the assault on rental-property owners.

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