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As eviction moratorium winds down, tenants and landlords prepare 

click to enlarge Protesters for rent relief outside the Kenneth B. Keating Federal Building in July 17, 2020.

PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI

Protesters for rent relief outside the Kenneth B. Keating Federal Building in July 17, 2020.

The national moratorium on evictions ended July 31, but tenants and landlords in New York state still have until the end of August before their eviction protections are lifted — and they are preparing.

Joe LaBarbera, who owns and manages more than a dozen properties in Rochester, said the eviction moratorium has made it financially crippling for some landlords. At the same time, he said no one looks forward to the eviction process.

“Evictions are something that nobody likes to deal with, '' LaBarbera said. “ And at the same time, a lot of these people are suffering. I know some landlords that have literally had to take an extra job.”

With a lengthy docket, he said that landlords will end up taking more of a loss waiting for their day in court.

LaBarbera said many landlords have stayed afloat by selling their properties. He said he was able to recoup back rent from a tenant through a rental assistance program.

But access to the information for rental assistance programs varies by landlords. Labarbera’s housing provider association assisted with his.

Tenants who are behind in rent can still utilize those rental assistance programs when the moratorium ends.

Alex Turner, community resource director for Catholic Family Center, said emergency rental assistance for Monroe County residents through the EPPI 2.0 program is still available. The program provides up to 12 months of back rent for qualified applicants.

“Based on the capacity that we have, we'll be able to continue taking applications into the fall,” said Turner.

Members of City-Wide Tenants Union of Rochester said the rental assistance programs are not enough and want to see the city of Rochester create long-term solutions to address the housing needs beyond the pandemic.

"In Rochester, one out of four tenants move each year," said Ritti Singh, communications coordinator for the union. "So that's really causing a lot of destabilization in our community."

The group is no longer asking for rent to be "canceled." Instead, its advocates are seeking reforms to improve housing in Rochester beyond the pandemic.

The group’s Stabilize Rochester Campaign proposes additional protections for tenants and good cause evictions, prohibiting evictions in units with no certificate of occupancy (C of O), and repealing some property tax breaks given to developers for luxury apartments.

Singh said the city should be investing in safe, healthy housing for its residents.

Turner said that it is most important for tenants to know of their rights as the end of the moratorium approaches.

“It's really important for tenants to know that only a judge can evict them," Turner said. “Even if their lease has ended, or their landlord is selling their house, they have a right to remain in their home.”

April Franklin in a reporter for WXXI News, a media partner of CITY.
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