For many years, Gary Morant enjoyed a successful career as a chef, even partnering with celebrities on occasion. But in the spring of 2018, he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and was no longer able to work. He applied for SSD and was approved, but he couldn’t expect his first check until the end of a 6-month waiting period. And because he had some private disability insurance, he didn’t qualify for much SSI. This tough financial situation caused Mr. Morant to fall behind on his rent and soon he faced eviction proceedings.
Fortunately, Mr. Morant was put in touch with David Crossman, a Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York (LASNNY) attorney, and with the Schenectady Community Action Program (SCAP). Crossman says, “I went to court with Mr. Morant for two separate non-payment cases. The first time, in August 2018, we put together a payment plan for him and Donna Gonzalez from SCAP was able to provide $275 towards this plan.”
But Mr. Morant’s financial issues weren’t over yet. A few weeks later, Gary fell behind again. His payment was due on a Friday, but he didn’t have the full amount until the following day, Saturday. He called the landlord to let them know he’d be a day late, but by Monday morning, the landlord had already filed for another warrant of eviction.
Crossman explains, “Instead of picking up the payment a day late, the landlord filed for a warrant of eviction on Monday based on Mr. Morant’s ‘default’ under the stipulation. I filed an order to show cause arguing that the landlord was supposed to notify me that they were seeking a warrant and citing a case that says payment a day late and a dollar (actually $1.56) short should not result in forfeiting a tenancy. In Gary’s case, he wasn’t even a dollar short, just a day late. At the court appearance, Judge Frost ordered the landlord to accept the payment.” Crossman was happy with the successful outcome but acknowledges the gravity of the situation. He recalls, “As Gary signed a retainer for me to represent him in court, he looked into my eyes and said, ‘My life is in your hands.’ “
As for Mr. Morant, the 61-year-old is still battling cancer. He is thankful for the company of his three children and life partner. “She’s been by my side throughout everything.” And he can’t say enough good things about LASNNY and SCAP. “I don’t know where I’d be without them,” he says. “David helped me out numerous times with landlord negotiations as well as giving referrals for other types of assistance.” While Mr. Morant navigates his very serious health issues, he can at least rest easy when it comes to his housing.