Feb. 26, 2021 By Christian Murray
A Queens state senator introduced legislation Thursday that aims to protect commercial tenants from personal liability if they unable to pay their rent due to COVID-19.
The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Mike Gianaris, aims to protect business owners who were forced to close due to the pandemic from personal liability.
Many leases come with personal liability provisions that hold business owners personally liable when they are not able to pay rent. Gianaris’ legislation suspends those clauses in leases for businesses that were shuttered due to government mandates related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our communities and have suffered tremendously during the pandemic,” Gianaris said in a statement. “We must do what we can to keep these neighborhood institutions alive while we fight for federal and state relief these businesses deserve.”
Gianaris drafted the legislation after working with Kambri Crews, owner and operator of Q.E.D., a comedy and entertainment venue in Astoria, who has this type of lease.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating to small businesses and the communities they serve but we are in the home stretch,” Gianaris said. “Personal liability protections will grant small business owners the confidence to focus on rebuilding businesses and communities without fear of utter financial ruination looming over them.”
The legislation expands on a bill written by Council Member Carlina Rivera and passed last year by the city council to protect commercial tenants. If passed this bill would kick in statewide.
“Small business owners put their heart and soul into their enterprises and our community depends on them,” Rivera said. “No one should fear a landlord going after their personal savings during this pandemic. I was proud to enact a law like this on the city level and I am pleased to support State. Sen. Gianaris as he leads this effort statewide.”
The bill is cosponsored by State Senators Samra Brouk, Andrew Gounardes and Robert Jackson. It is current in the Senate Judiciary committee.