Niagara Gazette

Columns

February 9, 2013

GLYNN: Landlords seeking to change rent system

Niagara Gazette — A number of landlords fed up with the practice of doling out the shelter allowance funds for people on public assistance want a major change in the system.

Under the current setup, the landlords contend, they're getting the short end of the stick when it comes to the tenants making the rent payment. That's because the tenants have the option of a voucher system, stipulating that the rent portion of their public assistance go directly to the landlord or they could have the full amount forwarded to themselves. If they opt for the latter, it's the tenants' responsibility to pay the landlord. The records are replete with examples of late payments. Or no payments at all.

The Landlord Association of Greater Niagara is hoping that the county lawmakers will approve a resolution Monday night to provide for more accountability from those tenants. 

"This has nothing to do with picking on poor people or anything like that," said Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, minority leader in the Legislature and a sponsor of the resolution asking the state to change the system. 

The process is a loose arrangement. Landlords would prefer the direct payment, assurance the rent will be paid on time. What irks them is the welfare recipient can simply discontinue the voucher system even without notifying the landlord. (In a federal program with leased housing, the landlords are paid directly). When the recipients fail to pay the shelter costs, it doesn't take a nuclear physicist to figure out that the money is spent elsewhere. 

Bob Pascoal, president of the landlords' association, said the problem is compounded because even if the tenants are asked to leave, the eviction process could take upward of three months, adding financial hardship to the landlord.

Whenever the landlord vs. tenant issue is aired, people on the renters' side will argue that holding back the payment is the only way they can get the landlord to make repairs.

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