Everyone, including your landlords and property management companies, is feeling the effects of COVID-19.
In the 21st century, a pandemic isn’t just about public health. We all know someone who has felt the financial strain as well. By the end of the summer, most of us will know at least one person who had the virus or, unfortunately, succumbed to it.
With the financial and public health strain, property management companies and landlords are stuck in the middle.
In this post, our tenant law attorneys at the Manassas Law Group have some advice to give to local landlords. We hope that, if you follow these guidelines, you and your tenants will come through the pandemic with a limited hit to your bottom lines.
Follow Local and Federal Mandates for Landlords During Pandemic
The first thing you should do is make sure you’re in accordance with legal mandates. Many areas of the United States are under orders to restrict movement outside of the home. If your area is under a stay-at-home order, you need to maintain that.
It’s important for both landlords and property management companies to remember that these laws are usually local. Check your community to find out the degree of social distancing your area requires.
How Does the CARES Act Affect Landlords and Property Management Companies?
In March, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. In addition to the stimulus check, this law also lays out plenty of rules for landlords and property management companies.
For instance, the CARES Act placed a moratorium on evictions until July 24, 2020. This prohibits a landlord from filing for eviction for nonpayment. It also prevents landlords from charging late fees.
However, not all landlords and properties fall under the CARES Act. You should review the entire act in detail to find out if it applies to your property.
State Tenant Protections
Even if your property does not fall under the CARES Act, your state or city might have their own protections in place. Here in Virginia, courts and sheriff’s offices put off non-emergency operations until May. You should check your state’s rules and regulations as well as the CARES Act.
As landlords and property management companies, you don’t want to lose money. You’ve probably seen accounts on the internet of landlords going about “business as usual” to avoid losses.
Like we already said, this pandemic is affecting everyone. Being aggressive or forceful may not be the best approach. Many states are encouraging tenants to reach out to their landlords and property management companies for help. It is important to respond to these tenants with empathy. If you do, they will be much more likely to want to get you your money more quickly.
Know Your Options
Landlords and tenants are facing uncertainty as to what to do in the coming weeks. It is important for landlords and property management companies to be proactive rather than reactive.
Talk To Lenders
If you have a loan on any properties, it may help to check with your lender. Many lenders have programs in place to help landlords and other borrowers who are struggling financially. The last thing anyone wants is an economic spiral under the burden of troubled loans.
Many are offering payment deferment or forbearance, or short-term conversion to interest-only. Some lenders are also offering lower interest rates during the pandemic.
Most of the larger lenders have made plans as to how to help their borrowers. But they won’t volunteer that information. It’s up to you, the borrower, to ask them how they can help you.
If your loans are backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you have some of the best options available.
The current unemployment rate is the highest it has been since the Depression. More and more people are filing for benefits every day.
With the CARES Act, people who are self-employed are now eligible for unemployment benefits. Many landlords are also real estate agents and are not W-2 employees. For the first time, these landlords are eligible for unemployment benefits. Check with your state unemployment website to see if you qualify.
If you do qualify, remember that the process of applying for unemployment can be tedious. It is now even more so, considering the number of people applying every day. But even if it takes two or three weeks to get into the system, your payments will be retroactive; you will receive payment for the weeks you had to wait.
Don’t Try to Evict Your Tenants
In most places, eviction is not even an option right now. However, in Virginia and in other places, there are still steps landlords can take to evict their tenants or take their tenants to court for nonpayment.
But here’s the deal: you shouldn’t evict your tenants right now. Apart from the moral burden of evicting someone during a pandemic, you may hit a roadblock in a few weeks when a federal mandate stops the eviction.
As landlord-tenant attorneys, we do feel for landlords who were trying to evict tenants before the pandemic hit. Those landlords are mostly unable to continue or complete the eviction process.
So, what can you do if you’ve got a tenant who went bad before the pandemic with no eviction possible?
Consider Cash for Keys
Cash for keys is a process where you can offer a tenant a certain amount of money to vacate the property. Of course, this isn’t ideal, but it may be the quickest way to clear the tenant off the property.
Consult With A Landlord Law Attorney
How to deal with a tenant you want to evict is often a case-by-case decision. It is important to consult with local legal counsel before you do anything.
If you are a landlord and work with property management companies, they will likely know a local attorney you can speak to.
Contact the Manassas Law Group
The Manassas Law Group has served the people of Virginia for generations. Our attorneys have extensive experience in landlord and tenant law. If you, or your property management company has questions about what’s legal during the pandemic, call us at 703.361.8246. You can also leave us a message on our website.