The coronavirus pandemic is quickly changing how the world operates, with new developments happening every day. As the disease continues to spread, workplaces and businesses have shut down to avoid spreading it further. Although social distancing measures and stay at home orders have been deemed necessary for slowing the rate of the virus, it’s left many people without the income they need to sustain themselves.
If you’re one of those people, you’re not alone. Many renters are panicked about how they’ll make their payment in April and in the coming months. It’s easy to believe your landlord won’t want to listen to your situation because so many people share the same problem, but many empathetic property managers will be amenable to discussion.
Read on for guidance that will help you learn how to talk to your landlord about COVID-19. With the right frame of mind and calm approach, you will hopefully figure out the right path forward so you can feel a little peace of mind about the near future.
Approach Them With Honesty
You might be nervous that the discussion with your landlord will be fraught with emotion. In a time when you feel worried every day, it’s hard not to talk about financial problems without fear, anger and frustration.
The first thing to keep in mind is to approach your landlord with honesty. A frank discussion will help you both understand each other and the situation. The coronavirus has caused an unprecedented crisis, and a good landlord should be willing to work with you. They’re equally unsure about what’s going on because they’ve never navigated a situation like this before.
Many financial institutions are working with property owners to manage mortgage payments in this crisis. Single-family borrowers with an FHA-guaranteed loan may already be eligible for mortgage forbearance regardless of what institution services the loan. This means landlords may be able to temporarily pause payments on the property you live in — making the financial crunch easier for both of you.
Discuss this possibility with your landlord to learn more about their financial options and how they’re responding. If they’re able to pause their own mortgage payments, landlords have a better ability to work with renters struggling from unemployment and unexpected hardship.
Research Potential Legislation
Depending on where you live, there could be national, statewide or local legislation that helps you out. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has suspended all foreclosures and evictions until the end of April. That pushes off any potential evictions from your landlord and should help you feel more confident about what is and isn’t possible when you open a conversation.
Some areas may even take that a step further. New York City is in the process of proposing a rent freeze for all residents, which helps in a big way. Instead of suspending payments, which piles your current month’s rent onto the next bill, it would mean you don’t pay the rent in the future. Check your city’s legislation to find out if suspending or freezing rent is a possibility where you live.
Finally, the recently passed Coronavirus stimulus package provides some protection for renters. Many landlords with rental properties have mortgages backed by Frannie Mae, Freddie Mac and other federal institutions. These landlords cannot evict or penalize renters for nonpayment for the next 120 days after the passage of the bill.
Reach Out to Utility Companies
If your landlord needs you to pay your rent on time and there’s no hope of a suspension, you should manage your monthly bills by making a list of every company you pay for utilities.
Your electric, water and cable companies may currently offer to freeze bills, but they won’t do so unless you call them first with a request. They’ll continue to charge you or automatically withdraw your payments, although many electric companies won’t cut off your energy while the coronavirus keeps people out of work.
Freezing these bills may not add up to the exact amount needed for your rent, but it will help free up room in your budget and show you how much extra money you have to work with for now.
Offer a Partial Payment
During your conversation with your landlord, they may express they have no desire to or are unable to pause rent charges. If that’s true, offer a partial payment.
They may be willing to waive late fees if you do so. You’ll still need to pay it the following month, but it leaves you with more money at the moment for groceries and other bills.
Discuss Default Notices
If you can’t get your landlord to freeze or suspend your rent, you may not be able to pay and receive an eviction notice. Considering HUD suspended evictions until May, it will be alarming to find a notification on your door or in your mailbox.
Should this happen to you, you’ll need to contact your landlord again. They may have sent the eviction notice as a default, especially if it came through an automatically generated email. States have different periods before these notices must alert residents. North Carolina gives a 10-day notice, while Florida provides seven days to renters.
Your landlord will have to walk back their eviction notice if they realize it went out automatically while HUD’s suspension is still applicable.
When you’re still not sure how to talk with your landlord or respond to their notices, you can contact a housing counselor at HUD. They’ll know the laws in your state to help you with your specific situation. Keep in mind that these counseling agencies may be overwhelmed at the moment and could take up to 24 hours to reach out after you leave a message.
Know Your Options in an Uncertain Time
These are all options you can take when you talk with your landlord about COVID-19. Certain tips may be more applicable to your situation than others. If you can’t pay your rent, know that eviction is a long and expensive process. The court system has slowed down at this time, so you won’t be homeless overnight.
Communicate with your landlord and understand which laws protect you, and you’ll figure out your way through this pandemic.
Holly Welles is a real estate writer and the editor of The Estate Update. She covers real estate investment, apartment living and personal finance for publications across the web.
*Contributions are solely guest opinions and don’t reflect the opinions of or are endorsed by WYL, our staff, clients or other interested parties.