Bernie Sanders throws support behind New York rent-suspension bill

21 senators have joined the sponsor of the bill, State Sen. Michael Gianaris

Miami /
Mar.March 28, 2020 12:19 PM

Bernie Sanders (Credit: Getty Images)

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has thrown his weight behind Sen. Michael Gianaris’ rent-suspension bill.

“Along with pausing mortgage payments, evictions, and utility shutoffs, we must place a moratorium on rent payments, especially in states hardest-hit by the coronavirus like New York,” Sanders tweeted on Saturday morning. “We must build on the important work [Gianaris] and others are doing to make this happen.”

Gianaris’ bill is quickly gaining momentum. Along with the national attention, Senate Bill 8125 has 21 co-sponsors in the state senate, just one week after having been formally introduced.

According to the legislation, rent and mortgage payments would be forgiven rather than postponed. An executive order issued by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week urged banks to defer mortgage payments for 90 days for homeowners suffering because of the health crisis, but offered no such equivalent for apartment owners and renters.

A relief package for landlords with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac came earlier this month. Most renters will receive some financial assistance from the government in the form of a one-time payment of $1,200, in a $2 trillion federal stimulus package which passed on Friday. But there is little else in the package for multifamily real estate owners or renters.

Along with waiving rents for 90 days, the Queens Democrat’s bill would allow landlords in financial distress to apply for forgiveness of their mortgage payments in an amount equal to that of unpaid rent stemming from coronavirus-caused hardship.

For renters, late fees would not apply during the 90-day period, and any lease that expires during that time would be automatically renewed, with the monthly rent unchanged.

Critics of the legislation question how such a waiver would be enforced, and are instead pushing for relief for landlords in the form of a tax abatement, which could be passed on to tenants in the form of a rent reduction.


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