Christine Brennan protests Monday in front of Lynn Matsuoka's house.
Lynn Matsuoka at her Bridgehampton home.
A sign posted outside Lynn Matsuoka's home denounces the eviction moratorium.
A demonstrator in front of Lynn Matsuoka's house on Monday.
Adrianna Nava protests the eviction moratorium in front of Lynn Matsuoka's house.
For a year, Bridgehampton artist Lynn Matsuoka has been trying to get a man out of her house, but due to his ongoing refusal to leave and the New York State eviction moratorium, she has been unsuccessful.
Matsuoka said Monday that she agreed in September of last year to let the man use a room in her house for what he said would be ‚Äúa month, possibly two,‚ÄĚ while he secured other housing. But after two months passed, he stayed put. She said she hired three lawyers, who each sent him notices to leave, but he ignored them all.
‚ÄúHe just took over the place like it‚Äôs his, and he walks in and out of here like he owns the place,‚ÄĚ she said.
Matsuoka, 75, canceled knee replacement surgery because the man is using the first-floor bedroom, which she said she needs to stay in during her recovery, and now not only has her knee gotten worse, her doctor tells her that her stress-induced high blood pressure puts her at risk of a stroke.
She said the man said he would leave if he was paid, demanding $6,400 at one point and on another occasion demanding that his living expenses be paid for three years.
The Express News Group has chosen not to name the man because of the nature of the dispute.
Friends and sympathetic strangers rallied in front of Matsuoka‚Äôs Snake Hollow Road home Monday to protest the moratorium and to tell the man to leave. The modest demonstration of eight people drew honks and cheers from passing motorists.
Among the demonstrators was Christine Brennan, who said she learned of Matsuoka‚Äôs situation from a posting on Nextdoor in April. Then last week, Matsuoka posted that the man was still in her house.
‚ÄúThe elderly should live in dignity at the end of their lives,‚ÄĚ Brennan said, ‚Äúand this is an absolute crime that the laws in New York State won‚Äôt get this man out of her house. ‚Ä¶ If the laws don‚Äôt have a rule for dignity, at least the people in this community will. We don‚Äôt want her living in fear anymore.‚ÄĚ
Adrianna Nava did not know Matsuoka, but said she is trying to help because she is in a similar situation with tenants in her house.
‚ÄúWhen I heard Lynn‚Äôs story, I had just spent a whole day going in person with a sign and a picture of my child ‚ÄĒ I‚Äôm a single mom ‚ÄĒ to the courts, to the police, to the sheriff‚Äôs office. Nobody can help me. I have a great attorney. He‚Äôs doing the best he can, but he can only do so much. It‚Äôs like even the best attorneys have their hands tied behind their backs because of all of these unconstitutional ‚Ä¶ moratoriums.‚ÄĚ
Nava said she has rented out her house in Springs on a year-to-year basis. After the State Legislature passed the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019, she wrote a new lease to best protect herself, she said. ‚ÄúBut apparently contracts don‚Äôt matter anymore.‚ÄĚ
The tenants were there for three years amicably, she explained, but now they have been there for nearly four years despite being given legal notice that the lease was not being renewed. She said they told her they are staying because New York State says they can.
Nava said the overstaying tenants are not paying rent but even if they wanted to she could not collect it. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm not allowed to collect it if I want to proceed with any kind of eviction,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚Äú‚Ä¶ The state says if you want our help getting them out you can‚Äôt collect any payment from them. So I have been put in an even worse financial position just in the process of getting them out.‚ÄĚ
Matsuoka said the man was always a guest, not a renter, and never had a lease. When he moved in, she asked for a damage deposit and utilities deposit, but he refused to give her either, she said. Instead he handed her $1,000 in cash that she considered a deposit. He gave her another thousand for the second month, and in the third month she told him he had to leave but he said he was staying and gave another $1,000, she said. He ultimately paid $4,000 but never contributed toward utilities, she said.
She said he applied for New York‚Äôs Emergency Rental Assistance Program. ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt think he realizes that if he‚Äôs approved they give the money to me, but I‚Äôm not accepting it,‚ÄĚ she said, explaining that if she takes the money she will be obligated to allow him to stay. ‚ÄúI told the authorities, I said forget it. You don‚Äôt have enough money to pay me to keep him in my house. He‚Äôs very abusive and very obnoxious.‚ÄĚ
She said the man had been yelling at her since January when she started asking him when he‚Äôs leaving. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôd screech at me and lunge at me and put his finger in my face.‚ÄĚ
Matsuoka said she is more than qualified for the ‚Äúcarve out‚ÄĚ in the eviction moratorium.
The exception states that a tenant can still be evicted during the moratorium if the tenant is ‚Äúpersistently and unreasonably engaging in behavior that substantially infringes on the use and enjoyment of other tenants or occupants or causes a substantial safety hazard to others.‚ÄĚ
She also said she is terrified he will bring COVID into the house.
Matsuoka said that when she shared her situation on Nextdoor, there was a flood of people who commiserated and gave advice. However, she said she can‚Äôt use 99 percent of the advice because it is illegal. ‚ÄúPeople don‚Äôt know,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúLike, ‚ÄėIt‚Äôs my house. Why can‚Äôt I change the locks?‚Äô Because the cops will arrest me. They told me that.‚ÄĚ
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