By Griffin Kelly, NY Post
In a sign of the times, a fed-up Queens landlord posted two giant banners calling out his allegedly deadbeat tenants for owing him $17,000 in back rent.
“MY TENANTS ON THE FIRST FLOOR ARE NOT PAYING RENT” read the bold posters slung above the first-floor rental on 175th Street in Springfield Gardens.
Landlords Calvin and Jean Thompson posted the banners — which can be seen from the Belt Parkway — in the hopes of shaming their tenants into paying up. It was also featured in a TikTok video that got more than 14,000 likes — and supportive comments like, “Not paying your bills is ghetto.”
The Thompsons have owned the two-family home since 1989. They began the process of trying to evict Marie and Eugene Lamour and their daughter Kathia in Queens Housing Court last month.
But with nearly 200,000 eviction cases pending in the city after pandemic protections and the state’s eviction moratorium created a historic backlog, the landlords see humiliation as the next-best tactic.
“The signs are very embarrassing and shameful for them,” said the Thompsons’ son, Calvin Jr. “That’s the only voice we have at this stage: freedom of speech.”
The signs seem to be working: Kathia Lamour tried to cut one sign down, Calvin Jr. claims.
“When she calls Uber, she won’t do it in front of the house anymore,” he said. “She runs to the end of the block, so they don’t see them.
“It’s uncomfortable that we have to hang these up, but we’re $20,000 uncomfortable, so I think a sign is very minor.”
Problems began in July when the Thompsons raised the rent on the Lamours’ three-bedroom pad from $1,800 a month to $1,900, the first rent hike in nine years, according to Calvin Jr.
The Lamours didn’t want to pay the 5% increase. Kathia, who works for the city Department of Social Services and makes $46,731, according to GovSalaries.com, told The Post she tried to drop off $1,800 in rent instead of the new amount, but the Thompsons refused to take it — so she stopped paying altogether.
“It’s like all of the sudden, we’re bad tenants,” said Kathia, who has been on unpaid medical leave from her job since the summer. “They were bamboozling me into an increase. They went ballistic on me because I wouldn’t give it to them.”
“I don’t think a $100 increase for almost a decade of living is unreasonable,” Calvin Jr. said. “There are plenty of landlords in our situation because of COVID. A lot of eviction cases are backlogged. She knows this and is going to ride this out.”
The state’s eviction moratorium, which ended in January, gave wide latitude to renters suffering hardship from the pandemic, but left many landlords in the lurch. The moratorium also allowed renters to put the brakes on an eviction case against them by claiming financial hardship without having to prove it.
The Lamours did not file any COVID hardship forms.
Both families live in the same building, and the only thing separating them is floorboards.
The Lamours’ lawyer, Andreas Spiker, said the sign is a form of harassment and will only hurt the Thompsons’ case.