By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Four local elected officials, including Councilmember Keith Powers, have proposed that renters be allowed to use their security deposit for this month’s rent. Powers, in addition to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Brooklyn Councilmember Robert Cornegy and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, announced the proposal last Tuesday and sent letters to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo last Thursday asking that tenants be given relief.
Allowing tenants to liquidate their security deposits would serve as a needed $8 billion cash infusion for the thousands of New Yorkers who have lost their jobs or income due to the coronavirus outbreak, the officials told Crain’s last week.
“New Yorkers are facing unprecedented circumstances due to the coronavirus,” Powers said. “With thousands of tenants facing sudden and unprecedented hardships, we must look toward immediate solutions for those struggling to make their next rent payments in a matter of days. Using existing, pre-paid security deposits to supplement rent payment allows tenants time to seek relief.”
The proposal, known as the Renter’s Relief Plan, would provide immediate financial relief for tenants while ensuring that they don’t fall behind on rent payments or see any impact to their credit, and it ensures that landlords don’t fall behind on any of their liabilities. The proposal also provides renters who opt-in to the program 30 days to replace the security deposit.
A spokesperson for Powers said that the proposal offers a bridge for renters while larger issues get worked out in Albany since April 1 was quickly approaching with no promise of a rent freeze or cancelation.
According to Crain’s, putting such a rule in place would probably require an executive order from the governor.
The mayor said on Monday that he is supportive of the plan but confirmed that the state would have to take action for tenants to use their security deposit to pay April’s rent. De Blasio said that the plan would be helpful for many New Yorkers who recently lost their jobs.
“Their income has just been blown away, federal help is coming but that will take time,” he said. “People need help right now. Applying the security deposits helps the renter to pay the rent […] and the smaller landlords need money to get by as well, so it frees it up for them. There has to be some process to eventually restore that deposit, […] maybe an installment plan overtime. But immediate relief is needed. I think it’s a great idea. We’re working with folks at the State level to see how to make that happen.”