Collecting Rent During the Coronavirus Pandemic April 30th, 2020 | By: Matthew I. Paletz, Esq.
As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on our society, landlords across the country are doing their part to work with their tenants while both parties struggle with economic hardship and financial uncertainty. It is during these turbulent times that we need to continue communicating with one another to find satisfactory solutions while understanding that the health, safety and welfare of the general public is of vital interest.
Due to the pandemic’s wide-ranging effects, a landlord may get various different types of information provided by individuals requesting rent deferment (some due to job loss, some for health reasons, some both). Thus, it is important to develop uniform guidelines in terms of the type of payment arrangements you want to offer to avoid potential fair housing issues.
Likewise, it is essential to train your personnel on how best to approach tenants during this stressful time. It begins with being tactful and understanding. Listening also goes a long way as people are struggling and, in some respects, just want to have their voices heard.
On the bright side, many states may soon be lifting their Stay at Home Orders and so asking a tenant when they anticipate going back to work is perfectly appropriate. Also, while continuing to be polite, a discussion as to whether an individual is receiving additional unemployment benefits is also suitable. After all, the purpose of these added benefits was to help pay for vital necessities such as food and rent.
Kindness and tact never go out of style. Not only is this in furtherance of a time for humanity, but if this is handled correctly, it will improve tenant relations. It will also help to avoid negative conventional and social media attention. It’s just good business.
So too, is diligent record keeping, especially making a log of attempts at contacting a tenant. They need to be part of this process and it is equally incumbent on them to be communicative. Just be mindful to make sure to adhere to state social distancing and other guidelines regarding making contact with others.
Some courts are taking steps to re-open. So, now is the time to exhaust all avenues and explore all possible repayment options with your tenants. If you are not already talking with your landlord tenant attorney, you should be. Not only for the creation of payment plans to make sure they contain the proper language so that they will hopefully be looked upon favorably by the court, but to discuss strategies on how best to safeguard your interests going forward in the post-pandemic world.
It is also extremely important that you understand if your properties are affected by any State Emergency Orders or the Federal CARES Act. The latter imposes a temporary moratorium on evictions through July 25, 2020 for any housing receiving federal funds (such as subsidized housing) and for any housing with an underlying mortgage that is federally backed.
The Bottom Line: The Coronavirus is taking its toll on every facet of society. Everyone is having to face the challenges of enduring it. For landlords and tenants, communication is key. It should always be done in a respectful manner, but don’t be deterred to ask questions to gauge an individual’s ability to make payments. Look to enter into agreements when applicable and contact Paletz Law for assistance to make sure you are ready for when the courts re-open to enforce your rights and protect your interests.