Tax Relief

Santabarbara introduces a tax break for small landlords

CAPITOL – MP Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, introduced laws in the State Assembly that would allow small landlords across the state to defer paying property taxes when faced with unpaid rents and other effects of the pandemic.

The proposal Santabarbara made in Albany earlier this month would apply to landlords who own fewer than five properties.

“Sometimes we forget that a lot of the people who rent houses and apartments are not faceless businesses,” said Santabarbara. “They are family, friends and neighbors who rent to make a living and many have had problems over the past year due to COVID-19.”

With little or no rental income, property owners simply wouldn’t have the resources to maintain properties or pay property taxes, he said. “A lot of the small landlords here are seniors, they use it as second income,” said Santabarbara. “A lot of the people we’re talking about only have a unit or two.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, rent relief measures and an eviction moratorium had a significant financial impact on landlords who received rental payments.

The Santabarbara bill would allow municipalities to give landlords who own five or fewer rental units an extension of 180 days after the state of emergency of the pandemic ends to pay property taxes if a tenant has not paid rent. Limiting the bill to those who own fewer than five properties would prevent predatory investors from taking advantage of vulnerable properties, potentially leading to yet another zombie housing crisis, Santabarbara said.

Santabarbara is expected to meet members of the Schenectady Landlords Influencing Change, who represent dozen of landlords in the Schenectady area, via Zoom on Wednesday.

Members of SLIC, as the organization is known, say they are facing problems for a number of reasons, including state regulation that allows tenants not to pay rent if they are affected by the economic fallout from COVID. A moratorium on evictions imposed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo as part of the state’s response to the pandemic has also hurt landlords.

They would appreciate any relief. “Everything,” said Chris Morris of Schenectady, President of SLIC. “We’re looking for a lifeline because it’s been a terrible year.”

She said many, but not all, landlords have had problems with tenants not paying rent, and the nationwide eviction moratorium means that small landlords can do little even when they rely on tenants’ incomes as an essential part of their livelihood.

“The little landlord we’re talking about is the little guy, the little landlord, who over the years has started moving into and investing in real estate,” said Morris. “There are usually lower rents, they do their own maintenance, these are not the big complexes.”

Santabarbara said the goal of extending the payment deadline to six months after the pandemic emergency ended is to give landlords time to collect rents after the emergency has ended and then pay taxes. Tenants who don’t pay now are supposed to repay their missed rental payments as soon as things return to normal – but whether many will be able to do so remains an open question.

Over time, the bill was sent to the committee without further sponsors. “I’m looking for a Senate sponsor and as soon as I have one I’ll distribute it to other members,” said Santabarbara. “I can guarantee that other members across the state will refer to it. They see the same thing in their districts. “

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