A New York City landlord is facing his own eviction as tenants in his Harlem building refuse to pony up the rent.
David Howson, now 88, has long used rental income from his 10-unit building at 9 West 129th St. to help pay for the co-op apartment in Inwood where he’s lived for decades. Now, out more than $40,000 and suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, he’s had trouble paying his own maintenance charges and is himself facing the boot, his family claims.
The alleged deadbeats in Howson’s building will get another break, courtesy of Albany’s largesse. The legislature is expected to pass a new eviction moratorium that will keep wayward tenants in their apartments until at least May 2021.
“We have nothing. We are completely destitute,” daughter Jessica Howson, who manages her father’s affairs, told The Post.
The bulk of the lost income — more than $39,000 — comes from a single tenant who inherited rights to the apartment after her husband left for a nursing home, and hasn’t paid a dime of rent since December 2016, according to the landlord, who showed rent rolls to The Post.
The monthly rent is $926. But only a trickle of $215, courtesy of city social services, began coming in September 2019.
Years of litigation by Howson and her brother Dante have been fruitless. When they go to court, the Howsons have often found themselves outgunned by pro bono city attorneys.
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“Legal aid, adult protective services, this lady came to court with four lawyers, like OJ and the dream team,” Howson recalled. “We can barely afford one attorney.”
Howson said the agency acting as the woman’s legal guardian has bluntly told her that their client had a “right” to remain in the apartment rent free.
In November, attorneys for the tenant and Howson agreed to settle an ongoing lawsuit for $39,106.29 payable by Dec. 31, 2020. The money didn’t arrive.
In a statement, Manhattan Legal Services said they are in the process of “obtaining a rent subsidy from the City which will pay the landlord our client’s full back rent and provide regular monthly rent payments on her behalf moving forward.”
Howson says selling the building has proved impossible too, as potential buyers flee, due to the city’s draconian rent-stabilization rules and the tenants they would inherit.
“This landlord is basically trapped in court purgatory, owed tens of thousands of dollars, and they’re trapped in a black hole, a legal morass where they won’t get any relief from the government and the government is saying there is nothing they can do about it,” Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, told The Post. “We’re seeing this all over the city and all over the state.”
“We need help,” Howson said. “If Citibank is not giving me a break with my mortgage, why should anyone else live rent free?”
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