Evictions Resume Upstate

Tenants evicted in Albany, Troy, Rochester

Evictions have resumed in several cities in upstate New York, including Albany, Troy, and Rochester. In Rochester, where two-thirds of the about 205,000 residents are renters, judges had issued 100 eviction warrants as of Dec. 4, according to Allison Dentinger, an organizer for the City-Wide Tenant Union of Rochester. Sixty-five were for nonpayment and 35 “holdovers,” generally owners refusing to renew the leases of tenants who complain about lack of repairs.

They are happening quickly and aggressively, she says. On Dec. 8, a tenant reported that a city marshal had climbed into through the window of his home to change the locks after he refused to answer the door. In another case, the landlord changed the locks in a woman’s apartment while she was in the hospital with a heart attack, claiming that she’d “abandoned” the unit – which Dentinger says is illegal.

It’s sort of the Wild West up here. There’s very little accountability.

Allison Dentinger, City-Wide Tenant Union, Rochester

In mid-November, a quickly organized blockade—“we alerted everybody”— stopped city marshals from evicting a single father who’d lost his job in the pandemic. A judge had ruled he wasn’t covered by the CDC moratorium because he’d been on rent strike when the pandemic hit. The landlord had refused to accept government rental-assistance payments.

That was a victory, but “an individual solution to a systemic problem,” Dentinger says. “We need to cancel rent and mortgage payments, house our homeless, and pause all evictions immediately.”

Bills to do all three have been introduced in the New York State Legislature, and Dentinger hopes it makes them a priority when it returns. Those, along with just-cause evictions and helping small landlords avoid foreclosure, are common threads in tenant groups’ legal and legislative agitation around the nation.