The current global situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on everyone. Governments around the world are imposing quarantines in an effort to reduce infection. This has caused several non-essential businesses to close temporarily, some of which are not paying their employees for the time being.
Because of this, many people are barely getting by. In many cases, this can cause trouble for those who cannot afford rent. This may not sit well with some landlords in the United States. So, during and after the pandemic, how can they handle their tenants?
You Might Not Be Allowed to Evict Your Tenants
As of writing, some states have currently imposed eviction bans, making it illegal for landlords to evict tenants who can’t pay due to the current pandemic. It’s possible that this may soon apply to all states. Legally, your tenants are sill supposed to pay rent, which means as that as a landlord, you can try to evict them once the restrictions have been lifted because of their failure to pay rent.
But morally, however, it’s a different story and being flexible can go a long way. Every tenant’s situation is different: some tenants have enough savings to get them through a few months and can pay; others are living paycheck to paycheck and cannot pay you while businesses are closed. But while the pandemic is going on, you may not be allowed to evict your tenants for failure to pay during this time.
You’re Allowed to Negotiate with Your Tenants
Let’s say that a tenant has come forward and has let you know you will be unable to pay. On one hand, you might have a kind heart and be willing to waive rent during the quarantine. But on the other hand, we should recognize that some landlords’ only source of income is from rent and that they can’t afford to waive rent to make their own ends meet.
This situation is not all black and white, and you shouldn’t have to think about this as whether your tenant can pay rent or not pay rent. If a tenant comes to you saying they cannot pay rent for the time being, the best solution for everyone is to negotiate. If you can’t afford to not charge rent, consider lowering the rent to something more manageable for the time being or letting your tenants pay half of the rent now and the rest later.
Whatever your decision is, make sure you put it into writing. This is a difficult time and you and your tenant do not need to make it harder for each other than it already is.
Don’t Be Cruel
Now more than ever, people need to be empathetic about those who cannot easily wait out the pandemic. Unfortunately, more reports of landlord cruelty have come up. Despite certain areas in the US having a shield against evictions for the time being, landlords are showing criminal behavior in an attempt to get their tenants to pay. Actions like locking them out of their property or shutting off their utilities are on the rise. Tenants are more likely to expose these abuses to local news outlets.
Your Tenants Might Not Pay Even After the Quarantine Ends
Let’s say that a few months from now, a vaccine for COVID-19 is found. The quarantine is lifted and everyone returns to normal. Don’t expect that the moment quarantine ends, you can expect your tenants to fully pay you their missed rent or their own rent.
As of writing 21 million Americans have lost their jobs. It’s bound to cause economic damages in the foreseeable future. But for your tenants it means the job market will be tight as businesses work to earn back what they lost and slowly re-hire again.
It’s highly likely that your tenants are one of those people who have lost their jobs. If they can’t pay you now, they certainly won’t be able to pay you the moment regular operations resume. It’s your option if you want to evict them for failure to pay, but take note that in this economy, it will be more practical to keep them and wait for them to be capable of paying than to find someone new who can pay rent.
As a landlord, it can be a challenging time for many of us. On one hand, we want to maintain a good working relationship with our tenants and try to help them with the situation any way we can. But on the other, we have to recognize our own situation and understand that we are also suffering in this time and may not be able to cut rent because of our own or our family’s expenses.