For many Americans who live in apartment homes, rent for May 2020 is due tomorrow. As noted earlier this month, a best guess is that around 70% of residents made their April 2020 rent payments on time. That is, of course, a lower number than we would have expected under normal circumstances as each week we read that millions of more Americans filed for new unemployment benefits. Here are some of the questions I have received over the past few weeks:
Is rent still due? Yes. Rent is agreed upon in the lease between the owner/manager and the resident. Leases remain valid.
What if the resident cannot pay? My best advice is to engage in active communication with your residents. Learn who may have lost a job or is caring for a family member stricken with the virus. While management typically does not accept partial payments, this might be a time to amend that policy. Other options include creating a payment plan, using a security deposit and/or waiving late fees during the pandemic.
Can the rent be raised? The residential lease controls the monthly price for the apartment home. The parties can agree to a new lease (with a new monthly lease amount) at any time. Also, remember that if a resident wishes to go month-to-month, many times there is an increase in the rent to pay for that convenience.
Can residents be evicted during this time? Generally, the answer is no. Many courts are closed. Some states are starting to reopen, but many courts have ordered eviction actions stayed for a number of months. For resident living in government-backed affordable housing, in the large relief package passed by Congress, evictions for affordable units are stayed through almost the end of July 2020 (at least for now).
Can residents move? In theory, yes. But it will likely be more of a challenge to arrange for a moving company at this time. My clients report the number of residents submitting notices to vacate are down.
What about a rent strike? In some larger U.S. cities, various tenant advocacy groups are attempting to organize residents to simply stop paying their monthly rent as a way to bring attention to the need for relief because of COVID-19. While I try not to do politics here at the Fair Housing Defense blog, I am not certain that a rent strike is the best way to help the country recover economically. I would gently note that the apartment building/community most likely has a mortgage and a bank is waiting for its monthly mortgage payment. Remember, we are all in this together.
What about leasing and maintenance offices? Depending on where the property is located, many leasing and onsite maintenance offices remain closed. To be sure, management continues to operate properties and emergency maintenance is always being addressed. But you might not be able to walk into the office as usual.
What about apartment lobbies, rails, elevators and other common areas? Professional apartment management companies have changed cleaning protocols to address the virus and are working to keep areas as clean as possible. Now, many property amenities in certain states remain closed.
While most leasing offices discussions are professional, might I suggest that management and residents jointly agree to show a bit more patience and courtesy to each other during this time? You will be glad you did.
Just A Thought.