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Bridging the Gap Between Landlords and Tenants During COVID-19

It has been a story all-too-familiar across the country.

It has been a story all-too-familiar across the country. As the pandemic rages on in the United States, businesses have closed and unemployment has skyrocketed. Financial hardship has caused many commercial and residential tenants to be unable to pay rent, and this has had an effect on landlords, who have struggled to maintain their properties with no income. Tensions are high between these parties, and real estate lawyers have been called on to cool the atmosphere and work towards agreements that are beneficial to everyone involved.

George Hamboussi Jr. is one of these lawyers. The New York-based real estate attorney entered the scene near the beginning of the 2000s, and experienced tremendous growth through the hardest time in recent history for American small businesses: the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009. Now, as the pandemic has threatened a similar economic downturn, he has had to step into COVID’s real estate battles.

At first, New York did what many other states opted to do: the governor’s and mayor’s office alike froze all legal actions against tenants during the toughest parts of the pandemic. For a while, Hamboussi Jr. didn’t see much involving these disputes. However, when Governor Cuomo issued a stay on these orders, landlords became desperate to find ways to settle with tenants and receive some of the money they were owed.

One of these landlords became a client for Hamboussi Jr. An owner of both commercial and residential units in the New York City area, who struggled through the pandemic with a 30 percent vacancy among all their properties. This was due to many small businesses having to close or leave because of the financial impact of COVID-19, and many residents needing to move elsewhere as they could no longer afford rent. On top of this, the government freeze had resulted in over half of the businesses and tenants that remained not paying rent. The landlord went a year without collecting from these unpaying parties, and could not seek legal action to receive these payments.

It became a tenuous situation for the landlord. They both wished to strongarm the tenants into paying, but also couldn’t risk losing them, as they could be a source of income once everything returned to normal. They recognized that if they evicted the tenant, there would no longer be a chance of getting any of the money they are owed and that with renting down 20 to 30 percent in the city, it would be difficult to replace the evicted tenant.

Hamboussi Jr. became a voice of reason for these clients, walking them through the best courses of action that would see them lose the least amount of money while ensuring the tenants are able to provide this amount without eviction or voluntary leave. He became an arbiter of sorts, a third party to help write the armistice between landlords and tenants.

“Everyone’s suffering” is Hamboussi Jr.’s philosophy. That’s why he wanted to take that middle man role, to make sure both landlords and tenants made it through the ongoing crisis. He has operated under the philosophy that disputes such as these can be handled without eviction or catastrophic losses.

Thanks to his role in mediation, that client is still in business to this day, as are many others under his care. Now that we may be seeing the light at the end of the COVID tunnel, things may finally be returning to normal, but until then both tenants and landlords may continue requiring someone like Hamboussi Jr. to see their disputes through.

To contact George Hamboussi Jr., email ghjrlaw@gmail.com or call his office at (718) 439-4512.

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Written by Max Reynolds

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