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Landlord in New York state spray paints his own property to expose tenants' names and rent debt

Posted at 9:57 AM, May 13, 2021

VILLAGE OF LANCASTER, N.Y. — Kevin Nowak Sr. is at his wit’s end.

“We can’t just sit back idle and let this government do what they’re doing,” Nowak Sr. said.

The Lancaster property owner said some tenants have fallen behind on rent and he has no recourse because of the state’s eviction moratorium.

“I know I can’t evict them," he said. "I can’t even take them to small claims court to get $3,000 for, let’s say, an $11,000 claim.”

So, he took matters into his own hands and exposed his tenant's debt. He spray painted the roof of one tenant's home with their names and what they owe.

“Lisa and Ray owe $11,000 in rent. MAGA," the roof now reads.

“I’m not lying. I’m not calling anybody any names. I’m just saying so and so owes this much in rent,” Nowak Sr. said..

Nowak Sr. owns about 50 properties across Erie County. The one on Central Avenue isn’t the only one where he’s owed back rent.

Nowak Sr. said a former tenant on Livingston Street owes him more than $10,000 in rent. He spray painted the tenants name and his debt on the front of the building last week.

“This is not helping him. It’s not going to get him anything,” neighbor Nichole McMurray said.

McMurray said she’s called the village code enforcement officer several times to complain about the graffiti.

“I just don’t understand why he’s allowed to take it this far. He’s defacing Lancaster and not just the houses,” McMurray said.

According to the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, on average, renters owe $8,150 in unpaid rent. Nowak Sr. believes the problem is a product of a government policy.

“I don’t mean to do this to be vengeful to the people, themselves. I’m frustrated with the government," he said.

Neither code enforcement or the Lancaster village mayor responded to a request for comment.

Legal experts said they believed that Nowak Sr. isn't breaking any laws.

This story was originally published by Ali Touhey on Scripps station WKBW in Buffalo.