Shutting down landlord threats during COVID

Laws are different everywhere; I live in in New York City, and the laws come down much more on the side of tenants than you might expect. I would encourage anyone to look into their local housing laws and find out just what is needed for landlords to back up threats of penalties, credit score tampering, and eviction. From my experience, none of this can be done without a court order or breaking the law. And in our case, the housing courts are not only flooded with new cases due to COVID, but they are completely closed for the time being. Our landlord has literally no way to back up any threats.

Our whole building knows this and banded together last month to reach an agreement with the landlord on rent suspension. So far, we have pretty much backed them into a corner, as well as joined forces with other buildings under their ownership. Last night my building called an amazing attorney who agreed to work with us and he gave us a ton of insight which I will also share with you throughout this post.

TL;DR: you have power in numbers against filthy landlords. Don't believe their threats until you've checked your housing laws, especially given these unique circumstances. Section 4024 of the Cares Act protects renters from penalties, evictions, and late fees until July.

With all that out of the way, I'd like to start you off with our first email to the landlord (via a collective email address representing all the tenants in our building).
Summary: We discovered that they qualify for mortgage forbearance, and requested that they look into this is as an option to allow us rent suspension for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. With most of our building facing unemployment or disrupted work schedules, we figured this would be a reasonable request. How innocent...

The reply immediately set a less than cordial tone. I've boxed the most infuriating paragraph: they outright denied our financial situations. More importantly, they attempted to break us up and settle with them individually. This would give them WAY more power and maximize their chances of getting payment. In fact, according to the attorney we spoke with, the housing associations are actively ENCOURAGING this behavior. In other words: landlords are purposefully trying to take power away from the tenants and maximize their profits during this crisis.

This is a big read, and I don't expect you to read all of it. This is our attempt at maintaining professionalism while also fact-checking their dubious claims. We bring up section 4024 of the Cares Act, which essentially states that renters may not inflict penalties for late payments until July, nor evict without a 30 day notice. This is nation-wide and applies to any property with a federally-backed mortgage.

The next time anyone comes at you with a rent threat, copy/paste this:

"During the 120-day period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act, the lessor of a covered dwelling may not make, or cause to be made, any filing with the court of jurisdiction to initiate a legal action to recover possession of the covered dwelling from the tenant for nonpayment of rent or other fees or charges; or charge fees, penalties, or other charges to the tenant related to such nonpayment of rent. The lessor of a covered dwelling unit may not require the tenant to vacate the covered dwelling unit before the date that is 30 days after the date on which the lessor provides the tenant with a notice to vacate." https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/hr748/BILLS-116hr748enr.pdf
Now we're getting slimy. In this email the landlord claimed that payments had been made by other tenants. (Talking with one tenant by phone, they lied and claimed EVERYONE except that one tenant had paid.) As a collective group, we knew this to be false. As it turns out, ONE tenant caved to their badgering and struck a deal with them to pay %50 rent. However, using this to push the rest of us into complying was just bald-faced dishonesty to break up our group.

NY passed the Tenant Protection Plan of 2019 which makes it illegal for landlords to retaliate against tenants forming an association like ours, AND eliminates any penalties for tenants who have joined such a group. Again, all locations are subject to different laws, but it's worth checking your options to see if something like that is available to you.
After this, the threats started rolling in. Again, however, there is nothing to back them up. Even if they were to send any of us to collections, they would waste more money going after us individually than would be worth it to them. We are pushing them into a corner by getting them to lose out most or all on us as a collective group.

More threats. According to our attorney friend who has worked with these landlords before, "You represent a building that has one of the worst landlords I know." I don't disagree.

Attorney also informed those of us looking to renew the lease that, in NY, your lease basically renews automatically on a month-to-month basis. The landlord can wave some paper around to intimidate you, but unless they have the courts' support to actually evict you, there's nothing to stop you from staying and just keep paying month to month.


Cat tax. Please, if you take away anything from this post, understand that you might have way more power than you realize. You are not subject to idiot landlords just because they throw around threatening language. I am by no means a legal expert; I am relying a lot on the knowledge and research others led with. But if anything, let this be an encouragement to do some research, fight for your rights, and take control. Have a good day!

Shutting down landlord threats during COVID Shutting down landlord threats during COVID Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 01:31 Rating: 5

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