NYC officials propose allowing renters to use security deposit for April rent

March 31, 2020

Photo by Rachel Martin on Unsplash

Under a plan introduced by local officials, New York City renters struggling to pay next month’s rent would be allowed to use their existing security deposits as payment. As the Daily News first reported, the proposal would let tenants opt into the rent relief program to transfer their pre-paid deposits to rent. The deposit would have to be replaced within 30 days or converted into a monthly installment plan, under the proposal.

Council Members Keith Powers and Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and Brooklyn President Eric Adams wrote to both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio asking them to consider the rent relief program.

“Thousands of New Yorkers face sudden and unprecedented hardships, and freeing up the use of security deposits would provide much-needed relief,” the officials wrote to the mayor.

“Allowing tenants to use security deposits for rent payments provides a cushion of time to figure out next steps, while ensuring landlords do not fall behind on their liabilities. This plan would be a bridge that could bring us to the coming federal and state funding.”

De Blasio on Monday voiced support for the rent relief proposal but said that the decision would be made by the state. “People need help right now,” the mayor said during a press conference following the arrival of the USNS Comfort. “Applying the security deposits, it actually–it helps the renter to pay the rent, it actually helps in many cases landlords, especially smaller landlords, because that money is in escrow right now and the smaller landlords need money to get by as well.”

But Cuomo said on Monday the state has no plan to offer any other assistance to renters, outside of the three-month moratorium on evictions, issued earlier this month. “We have said that no one can get evicted for nonpayment of rent and that to me is the fundamental answer,” Cuomo said during a press conference.

Tenant advocate groups and elected officials have been calling for a rent freeze since Cuomo ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses. State Sen. Michael Gianaris introduced a bill last week that would suspend rent for 90 days for both tenants and small businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

A petition sponsored by the Upstate/Downstate Housing Alliance calls for an immediate suspension of all rent, mortgage, and utility payments, as well as a full freeze on evictions and foreclosures. As of Tuesday, the petition has collected more than 81,000 signatures.

With April 1 a day away, Cuomo still has not said whether he would support Gianaris’ plan or any similar rent relief program. And although President Donald Trump signed a $2 trillion economic relief plan last week, the relief is not immediate. The federal government will begin distributing the one-time payment of $1,200( for adults making $75,000 or less) in the next three weeks, which will not be in time for next month’s rent.

As Gothamist reported, tenants across the city are considering withholding payment next month. “We’re hoping to use our landlord as a pressure point for them to then put pressure on the state,” Maxwell Paparella, a freelance video editor living in Crown Heights, told Gothamist. “The ultimate target is Cuomo.”

[Via NY Daily News]


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