Letter: Landlords, Let’s Make the State Rental Program Work

Residential Landlords – Take our Survey to help us fix NY’s ERAP Nightmare!

We are June and Lance Margolin from Huntington Station,  and we created the “New York State Residential Landlord & ERAP Survey” (https://bit.ly/NYSlandlordsurvey) to gather the information and stories of our fellow landlords with tenants that have applied for ERAP. Landlords, we need your help! Please complete our up to 30-minute survey so you can tell your story SAFELY and anonymously if you choose – or optionally provide your contact information at the end.

New York State’s poorly facilitated Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) has enabled our tenant to hold our own home hostage for the last 7 months, the latest chapter in a nearly 2-year nightmare of missing rent, manipulation, violence and crushing expenses. I have sat through months of Suffolk County 3rd District Landlord Tenant Court hearings, listening to over 50 cases where at least half of them were mind-blowing “Is-this-REALLY-happening?!” situations that have me declaring: “ERAP and Landlord Tenant Court is a criminal’s playground created by New York State.”

We have a warrant through a Court Ordered Stipulation Agreement that our tenant signed herself agreeing to be evicted if she didn’t comply, but the Suffolk County Sheriff can’t execute it because of her open ERAP Application.

Like so many other landlords, I have tried absolutely everything I can think of since January to get the open ERAP application reviewed or expedited, to no avail. When I called my New York State Assemblyman Steve Stern and my New York State Senator Jim Gaughran for their help, I was shocked to find out that only a few of our fellow landlords contacted their offices with their experiences, asking for their assistance. Our NY State Officials must be told how horrendous their ERAP program execution and blanket application eviction protections have been for all of us. The questions in our Landlord Survey are designed to gather the data and landlord experiences that are missing from the conversations in our New York State Legislature and the media.

So far, the survey responses reveal shocking statistics that 12.5% of landlords are currently homeless while still paying their mortgage, taxes and utilities on their homes that are occupied by ERAP applicant tenants riding out the eviction protections. Two are unrelated soldiers that rented their New York homes while deployed to fight overseas and returned to their country HOMELESS – one slept in her car for A YEAR! Two more are single mothers with infants and toddlers – one is living in her parent’s garage as she waits for an ERAP decision so she can get her house back. Three landlords have lost their rental properties to foreclosure, with at least 3 more stating they will share the same fate very soon.

Over 1/3 of respondents report that their credit scores have been negatively impacted from being a COVID landlord – caused by drained savings, going into credit card and loan debt to pay repairs and expenses, and many weren’t able to pay their monthly commitments. Seniors have lost everything as their homes are legally hijacked by New York State’s ERAP facilitation.

There are regions of the state where landlords can’t even find a landlord tenant attorney to represent them because they’ve given up and changed specialties. As of today, 50% of ERAP landlords will NOT rent their apartments again…even the ones who had GOOD NY ERAP experiences.

Think about what the New York rental market will look like in another 6 months with 30% fewer apartments available. I’m holding back on sharing additional information until we have more survey respondents, but I can stand confidently in this next one…97.4% of ERAP landlords are not satisfied with New York State’s facilitation of the ERAP program. One respondent was contacted by an ERAP case worker or hotline supervisor out of 497 requests for contact submitted through the call center.

I called the ERAP Hotline last week to check the progress on our tenant’s case and asked if I should bother submitting a 12th request for the case worker or supervisor to contact me. She said “Yeah, they don’t call you back”. I asked her WHY New York State requires her to collect contact requests from callers when the staff is not mandated to call. I said, “That must be very stressful for you, fielding screaming landlord and tenant callers all day long because you have to lie to them. I hope you’re getting paid enough.” She laughed uncomfortably, and so did I. It’s my own tax dollars that are paying her to lie to me. (Insert face slap and eye roll emojis here)

While New York State’s ERAP facilitation is clearly broken compared to most other states, the survey responses are highlighting some simple fixes that can get this well-intended program on track to serving its actual purpose of keeping all low and moderate income New Yorkers in their homes. Landlords, I will fightfor all of us, but I need your survey responses – if you’ve had a great experience with ERAP or are trapped in a 2 year nightmare in your own home like we are.

The survey’s responses will be shared with all of our New York State officials, and final data samples or excerpts will be shared with interested news media as well. Follow our progress on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NYSlandlordsurvey/ and on Instagram @nystatelandlordsurvey

For additional information, contact June Margolin at [email protected]

Photo by Dana Richter Photography

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