A black vinyl banner hangs on a chain link fence across the street from the Bedford-Atlantic Armory shelter in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The banner, which depicts a cartoon of an angry landlord kicking a startled tenant in the butt in a style reminiscent of the game Monopoly, belongs to Quick Evic, a business started by self-proclaimed eviction expert Richard Cabello that specializes in helping landlords of one and two-family homes evict tenants. Cabello is one of many players at the intersection of evictions and homelessness in Brooklyn who are contending with the effects of the Right to Counsel law.
Cabello, 68, incorporated Quick Evic in 2014 to expedite and simplify the eviction process for landlords after several bad housing court experiences as a landlord himself. Cabello said that Quick Evic handles roughly 40 evictions a month, has three people working full-time on paralegal work and contracts at least five lawyers at any given point to represent clients in court.
While there is no shortage of landlord-tenant attorneys in Brooklyn, Cabello claims that no law firm provides the same level of transparency as Quick Evic. “I have a four-step process which explains everything,” Cabello said. “First is the notice. Then the petition. Then there’s a court date. And if it doesn’t get resolved on the court date, then we take them to trial which means the judge decides. … Everybody who comes to my office at least knows where they stand.”
Cabello’s business also has critics. Dozens of protestors picketed Quick Evic on Dec. 10, 2016, including Comptroller Scott M. Stringer who said of Cabello: “predators will come out when they think they can get away with things,” according to a segment on ABC 7. But to Cabello, the predators are tenants who “brutalize” landlords. “I had a situation where these people have a dog, and then the dog poops on the floor,” Cabello said. “You ain’t gonna believe this, they hose the doo-doo to the corners, and it filters down to the landlord. He calls the police and they tell him to go to tenant-landlord court cause that’s not a crime. They can’t be bothered.”
The 2016 protest was organized by the Coalition for Community Advancement, a non-profit that aims to “improve Cypress Hills through community development,” according to its website. Darma Diaz, State Committeewoman in the 54th Assembly District and community organizer with the coalition, was part of the protests against Quick Evic. “Our issue was that he became an asset to landlords with the eviction process which seemed to be a part of this bigger displacement that was occurring near enough to his office,” Diaz said. “At that time, the highest number of referrals to the shelter system was in the zip codes he was operating from.”
The protest had the unintended effect of amplifying Cabello’s marketing and driving more business to Quick Evic. “Once the media hit him, he called me and thanked me for the negative press,” Diaz said. “He gained new clients and was able to assist them with more quick evictions.” Now Diaz believes that Cabello takes every opportunity he can to play the press for more publicity.
Diaz is also skeptical of Cabello’s past providing housing to individuals in rental assistance programs like Section 8 who are coming out of the homeless shelter system. “The same landlords that he connected with while working with the homeless shelter system … they’re going to use him to move forward in evicting tenants that he knows are paying below market-rate rent,” Diaz said. “I would prefer for them [Quick Evic] to represent landlords so they can get their back rent and be able to keep the families in place.”
The skepticism isn’t mutual for Cabello. “I admire her work … very honorable work” Cabello said of Diaz. Cabello believes that he was picketed because of the name Quick Evic and his logo. “It catches the eyes,” Cabello said. Cabello also claims to have had only one gentrification case in the past four years where the landlord evicted tenants in three units and increased the rent by a thousand dollars so he could sell the building at the price he wanted. “Everything else is local, and they [the tenants] are getting evicted because the landlord has a justifiable reason,” Cabello said. “Either the person doesn’t pay or acts out.”
Cabello admits gentrification is a problem though and says he tries to help out tenants when he can. “It’s not about black or white anymore; it’s about green,” Cabello said. “If there’s a possibility of the person finding a program I would say do it this way, do it that way, you can get a program. But you got to come pretty close to an eviction to get it. You got to have an eviction notice to qualify for the program.”
Rafael L. Espinal Jr., councilman for the 37th district that serves Cypress Hills, took part in the 2016 protest. He posted a tweet this January stating that “Quick Evic has been taking advantage of the housing crisis to make a quick buck by evicting longtime tenants. I will intro a bill to create a license so we can hold these unscrupulous actors accountable.”
But for Cabello, it’s the politicians who picketed him like Espinal who created the displacement of low-income tenants. “They had the Barclay Center built,” Cabello said. “They had the casino built. They upgraded all these malls. … Property values shoot up, and the people on the lower levels get stuck because they can’t afford it.”
Cabello is skeptical of the Right to Counsel law. “Why don’t we take that $90 million and give it to people so they can move,” Cabello said. “Lawyer or no lawyer, they’re getting evicted … there’s not one case where the tenant stays. … They act like they got a pit bull or something.” Cabello believes that the Right to Counsel may slow down the eviction process, but won’t make any significant change to the number of evictions.
Quick Evic’s revenue has risen dramatically since opening in 2014 but has leveled off in the last year at around $200,000, according to Cabello. “That’s my penetration in the market,” he said. Cabello has no plans to expand Quick Evic beyond New York City but said his son Benjamin, who also works at Quick Evic, wants to turn the business into a franchise. “Our careers are moving in different directions. At 68, I’m looking to move out and he’s looking to move up,” Cabello said.
Cabello thinks housing is always going to be a problem — even for him. “My guess is it’s time to move on,” he said. “I hate to say this, but I’m going to have to move on too … when rent starts going to $2,000 or better I’m done … I’ll move to Florida in a second, in a heartbeat.”