After reading this article on VICE, I thought we'd publish some tips on how to deal with the Covid-19 crisis and what to do if you lost your job, or need to ask for a rent discount, or are completely out of all cash.
Here's some tips, and also a recommendation for any other landlords that have some (very limited) financial flexibility like we do.
Best case scenario is that your landlord is proactively offering solutions in case you run into trouble like we have in the below email. However, without communication your landlord would have no idea you've run into any trouble, unless you speak up. So, speak up! Anyway, first things first:
Here's the exact email we sent tenants in mid-March:
What a crazy time we're going through right now. I know this struggle may be affecting you, so I'm proactively considering some ways to help, if you are current on rent and there are not any problems.
More Flexible payment options
-We will accept rent via credit card (and waive the credit card processing fee) for April and May by advanced request (letter detailing your hardship directly related to the coronavirus)
Possible Rent Credits
Rent is still due on the 1st, and late fees remain in effect on the 2nd and so on, BUT
-If you provide me a letter about any financial distress caused directly from coronavirus, I may approve $10-50 in rent credits,
-If you provide a letter about a way you've already (or plan to) improved the current state of your house for everyone's benefit, I may choose to give bigger rent credits. Bonus if you mention what's going on with your financial situation and how you're improving it if you've been affected.
If you get infected
-You can find private lodging to quarantine yourself, and I will waive rent for up to 14 days (documentation required) that you did not occupy the house. Of course new lodging or your hospitalization bills are completely all on you.
Let me know if you have any questions, and remember this applies with ADVANCED NOTICE only.
Now, you can show this post to your landlord, but there actually may not be any law or reason for them to comply with it. After all, if it's a small landlord like us, you're asking someone to simply take a smaller paycheck, so um yeah, head notice is best with great proactive communication on your part.
If it's big investors, you're asking them to take a smaller return, which might be reasonable, if you can provide a value back to them, so let's spend a moment on that before getting to your request.
Three things your landlord would love to hear:
I plan to renew my lease.
I plan to continue paying rent during the coronavirus crisis.
I need a small discount, but can help you make improvements or repairs to the property.
Here's clarification on some of our ideas for Tenants requesting for help:
1. Ask to pay with a credit card, if you have run out of cash.
Many landlord only accept check. Now is a good time to ask them to sign up online to collect 'contactless' payment, and that may also be combined with a request to pay via credit card if you have no cash.
Sentence you can consider using:
I have lost my job, and although I have savings and plan to continue paying rent, I need to save my cash and am requesting to pay online.
Additionally, with the quarantine, I prefer to pay online. Rent is due in a few weeks, so maybe you can consider setting up an online solution like Zoho Invoicing."
2. Ask for a rent credit in exchange for helping improve the house, or help the landlord in anyway.
As you can see in the email, we offered a very tiny discount in exchange for a reason. This helps the tenant save money, and also helps us learn more about what to expect in the future (updated intel on financial situation, since it may have changed since the original application).
We also offered bigger discounts in exchange for helping with small repairs or improvements. Other smaller landlords may not be able to take a decrease in rent which would lead to a disagreement, and future legal problems.
3. Take a moment to acknowledge your landlords situation, then ask for a straight cold discount.
Although many landlords are not willing to waive rent completely (likely because their bank will not waive a mortgage payment completely, along with their homeowners insurance, property tax, and etc all giving the owner breaks), you may need to ask for that. It's okay to ask--communication is always the best strategy. If you disappear, or just don't pay, you may find yourself being served a demand letter, or being evicted over time, or you may lose a case in small claims court and see money pulled out of your paychecks if you don't settle with your landlord.
We cannot offer the full waiving of rent at anytime, and if a tenant did not pay us rent, they would still owe late fees, and any attorneys costs that we have to incur, would also later be paid for by the tenant, or their future paychecks or assets if the tenant did not communicate with us.
That's the cold hard truth. But communication makes it a lot less cold!
Lastly, if you do get infected, your health should be the primary focus for both you. The landlord should care about this, too, and be helpful since if you infect any of their other tenants the landlord is eventually going to run into problems.
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Thanks for reading, more about the author, Matt Holmes