Amid the coronavirus pandemic, federal and state eviction moratoriums have been celebrated by housing advocates as a godsend, helping millions of people avoid homelessness. But for smaller landlords who have been forced to eat the cost of unpaid rent and put up with unruly tenants, the program has been anything but a blessing.
Such is the case for one New York City landlord, who is still currently experiencing the unintended consequences of the moratorium in the form of mental, physical, and emotional abuse — all without any effective legal recourse.
The New York Times reported Friday about 31-year-old Vanie Mangal, a small landlord in Queens who has been victimized by the government moratorium and is finding it harder and harder to endure the suffering. Here's how the Times described her situation:
The first-floor tenants have not paid rent in 15 months, bang on the ceiling below her bed at all hours for no apparent reason and yell, curse and spit at her, Ms. Mangal said. A tenant in the basement apartment also stopped paying rent, keyed Ms. Mangal's car and dumped packages meant for her by the garbage. After Ms. Mangal got an order of protection and then a warrant for the tenant's arrest, the woman and her daughter moved out.
All told, Ms. Mangal — who has captured many of her tenants' actions on surveillance video — has not only lost sleep from the tensions inside her two-story home but also $36,600 in rental income. "It's been really horrendous," she said. "What am I supposed to do — live like this?"
One of Mangal's first-floor tenants screamed obscenities at her last year from the front patio and accused her of stealing mail. During the spate, the tenant pulled up an oversized shirt to flash her buttocks. The incident was reportedly captured on video. That tenant and her husband now owe Mangal more than $24,000 in rent, but she doubts she'll ever see the money.
Mangal's basement tenants, a mother and daughter, also owe Mangal thousands of dollars but refuse to pay.
The Times report notes how in years past, Mangal would have had the option to take her tenants to housing court in hopes of evicting them. But amid the pandemic, that is no longer an option. The federal government and many states, including New York, have imposed eviction restrictions to protect renters who may have lost income due to economic lockdowns.
The problem is that bad tenants who should not be afforded protections have been swept up in the benefits of the moratorium rules. Mangal could theoretically apply for financial assistance. But in order to receive any money she would have to allow a tenant to remain for a year after the aid is received without raising the rent.
She can also technically still take her bad tenants to housing court — and has. She filed a lawsuit in December. But due to a massive backlog of cases, it's unclear when help will come.
The situation has brought Mangal, who also works as a physical therapist in the city, near the end of her patience. She fought back tears recently during an interview with the Times.
"The stress and anxiety, the mental stuff," she said from the couch in the living room, where she now sleeps. "It's too much."