BROOKLYN, NY – A small, “mom-and-pop” landlord and homeowner in Brooklyn, NY has been sleeping in her car for weeks – and on a friend’s couch on the rare occasion when it’s available – thanks to a “deadbeat” tenant that she says is gaming the system to take advantage of eviction moratoriums in-place during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Shawna Eccles, 30, had used her savings to purchase a two-story, two-family home on East 91st Street in Carnarsie in February 2019 for approximately $477,000, which she then completely renovated. Her first tenant was Sharita Patterson, 33, a mother of three who had agreed to pay $2,100 per month to live there.
However, when the pandemic hit, Patterson filled out a “hardship declaration” form, which protects those who have been financially hit by COVID-19 from being evicted from their rental unit; Patterson subsequently stopped paying Eccles rent, and now allegedly owes $14,700 in back rent, according to court papers filed by the landlord.
Despite alleging that she is unable to afford rent, court papers indicate that Patterson purchased a new car during the pandemic.
Eccles has been fighting and attempting to evict Patterson since August, but the eviction bans had rendered all of her efforts moot; Eccles noted that once a tenant has signed a hardship declaration form – fraudulently or not – there’s nothing a landlord can do.
“They don’t have to prove it and they don’t allow us to challenge it,” she said.
Things went from bad to worse in December, when Eccles said at first it appeared that a legal settlement was close and that Patterson was set to vacate; under that belief, Eccles rented the section of the semi-detached house that she was living in to an elderly woman, with the intention of moving into the section inhabited by Patterson after she left.
The problem is she never left. Instead, Patterson allegedly reneged on the agreement at the last moment and signed the hardship declaration. As a result, Eccles found herself forced to live out of her own car; her tenant, who was not paying rent, gets to live for free, she said, while she is now homeless.
“There is no one I can stay with until I am able to evict, and all of my money covers the mortgage, water bill and property taxes,” Eccles said. “If anything gets cut off, it will be considered an illegal eviction. I have no additional funds to rent an apartment.”
Meanwhile, in addition to not paying rent, Patterson has allegedly been far from a model tenant. Court papers indicate that she has threatened Eccles and filed over 50 false complaints against her; flooded the bathroom; left garbage and dirty diapers around the property; and runs an illegal business out of the home, among other allegations.
Due to the eviction ban and recent state housing regulations, Eccles will be unable to bring a case against Patterson until at least May 1.