I have a few friends around the country that own or manage various apartment complexes and single family homes. Over the last two weeks I've reached out to them either online or by phone to find out what folks are doing to work with tenants in lieu of the coronavirus. Here are some suggestions.
The first thing to keep in mind is that all tenants need to be treated equally. Fair Housing requires equal treatment. Whatever you decide to do ensure that it is consistent across your whole portfolio. Once you come up with a policy write it down and apply it consistently. This should apply to anything you do from a property management perspective.
We are requiring any tenant that has been impacted by the virus to provide us evidence. Note that situations such as school cancellations or the fact someone is living somewhere else do not constitute a hardship. All student loan payments have been deferred indefinitely. Examples of monetary impact would be a coronavirus layoff or a reduction in self employment income due to the virus.
If someone has been laid off because of the virus we are requiring them to provide their last two pay stubs and a contact number/contact that can vouch they were laid off due to the virus. They should also show evidence they have filed for unemployment with the state.
Tenants should then sign over their full security deposit to cover much of the rent shortfall. This is not in lieu of a security deposit, but a short term influx of cash to the landlord to use that money as they see fit.
If an individual is out of work for 2 months because of the virus their portion of unpaid rent should be allocated across the remaining lease term. So for example if they have 8 months remaining on their lease and they are short $1,000 over 2 months that would add $125 per month to their remaining lease months. Most tenants should be able to pay a portion of their rent if they are getting unemployment. For tenants with just a few months left require them to sign a lease extension.
Any spent security deposit from above is required to be replenished as well.
Based on a conversation I had with a property manager in another part of the country waiving credit card fees during this time encourages more tenants to pay. We've allowed all non-payers to pay by credit card and are currently waiving fees (roughly 3%). We've had a few tenants take us up on that offer.
Tenants must proactively communicate any issues to work on a payment plan. A lack of communication for our tenants will result in an enforcement of their lease once the courts open back up.
If you have tenants impacted as a landlord then you are impacted as well. Communicate now with your banks and find out what options you have for deferment or reduction in payments.
At the end of the day everyone from banks, landlords, and tenants are going through a tough time. It's important that everyone due their part to reduce the overall impact to our housing. If you have any questions on how we are handling tenants during this time, feel free to give me a call or reach out!