There has never been a global disruption to daily life quite like what we’ve seen from the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a reminder that we’re all in the same boat, good times and bad. Recent struggles with unemployment, social distancing and even paper product shortages have real effects on our mental, physical and/or financial wellbeing. Without assistance, some people may have to choose whether to pay rent or buy groceries.
What can property managers do to avoid evictions? Here are four ways to approach rent assistance, especially when the economy is in rough shape.
1. Consider rent deferral for residents who may have lost their jobs
Addressing every multifamily, single-family or commercial tenant’s request individually has its benefits. Here are just a few reasons to personalize rent deferment and assistance plans:
- You give priority assistance to those who have lost their main source of income
- You want to avoid deferring rent to someone who can still pay
- There may be better ways for the tenant to receive assistance (e.g., government programs)
- Uncollected rent puts your business at risk and may upset owners
- You need a constant stream of revenue to support yourself and your staff
Even when the economy is bad and some of your tenants are jobless, it’s still your right (and your job) to collect the rent you’re owed. It might take time to evaluate each tenant’s needs and come up with a payment strategy, but it’s worth it. After all, you need to be paid, but jobless tenants need support due to societal events and aftereffects that are out of their control.
2. Understand that simple rent deferral agreements will avoid future disagreements
The main goal here is to work through a problem — together — in order to build a positive, trust-based relationship that carries into the future. This tenant could be one of several (or many) coming to you for rent assistance. It’s up to you and your owners to come up with a deferment strategy and individual payment plans.
Develop a plan
Do not make rent assistance plans over the phone. Every request needs to be in writing. This is where online tenant portals come in handy.
Yardi Breeze makes sure every interaction will be permanently recorded in the cloud. Should you need to show a tenant the rent assistance agreement at a later date or take the matter to court, you’ll have documents to help your case.
Here are some tips:
- Talk them through what they need to put in writing: why they’re struggling, how long they plan to be out of work, what they need from you, etc.
- Respond to their request in writing as well
- Discuss (again, in writing) other avenues for temporary financial assistance such as unemployment or other short-term government help
- Request they be as specific as possible in describing exactly what kind of help they need, and don’t hesitate to ask for more detail or clarification
3. Work with owners on your rent assistance plans
One thing is certain: Do not defer or forgive rent without the consent of your property owners. Find out whether they want to be involved in each rent assistance claim, or if they’re okay with you handling them.
It’s a good idea to have a few ideas to present going into these conversations with owners. After all, you know your tenants better than they do. If you can get them on board, you increase your chances of keeping good tenants through tough economic times.
4. When in doubt, the Golden Rule applies
There may not be a legal precedent for it, but it’s still important to treat others the way you’d want to be treated. Another way to put it: Be good to your people, and they’ll be good to you. It’s usually a better idea to keep your current tenants than look for new ones. There are many ways to settle tenant issues without eviction.
Want to see more ways property managers can support their communities? Check out our list of positive actions that help during a global health crisis.
If you’d like to know how Breeze is handling the COVID-19 health crisis for our clients and staff, we’re here to help with information, webinars and industry resources.
This article does not contain, nor is it intended to replace, professional legal counsel. Some states may implement temporary eviction freezes and/or rent controls during the COVID-19 crisis. You are responsible for following your state and federal guidelines when providing rent assistance and/or evicting tenants.