Rent Is Due: How can we pay the rent?

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According to new data released by the National Multifamily Housing Council, almost a third of American apartment renters did not pay their rent in the first week of April.

Last year, at this same time, 82 percent of renters paid rent in the first five days of April compared to 69 percent this year. And that was after just a couple of weeks of unemployment for thousands of furloughed workers. Now, faced with a hobbled unemployment office, snowballing joblessness numbers, and stay-at-home orders lasting through the end of the month, paying rent has become a major problem for both tenants and landlords. Those numbers are likely to jump in May.

A recent report by The New York Times quoted a nonprofit developer that manages roughly 6,000 properties in the Midwest saying that they expected almost 40 percent of their tenants to fall behind on rent payments.

Governor Ron DeSantis has already issued a temporary order to cease evictions during the pandemic but there’s nothing to stop landlords from carrying on with those eviction processes when that order is lifted. And that doesn’t mean you don’t owe that money to your landlord either. Currently, the chief judge in the 9th Judicial circuit in Orange and Oceola counties. has issued an order that the clerk will not take any action on eviction processes that are filed at this time but tenants will still need to negotiate a payment agreement with their landlords, in writing, if they are unable to pay at this time.

Landlords, however, haven’t had much in terms of support during the crisis themselves. Most utility companies, including OUC, are offering extensions for delayed payments and suspending disconnections for nonpayment and late payment fees for residential water and wastewater customers. But electric and other bills are still due.

Mortgage forbearance programs are available for owners of multifamily properties via the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

If you’re a property owner and are looking for some ways to respond to a tenant who is unable to pay their rent, consider the following:

  • Consider applying the security deposit or tenant’s last month’s rent to their bill if they’re unable to pay at the moment.
  • Encourage partial rent payments accompanied by a payment plant and updated lease agreement.
  • Consider adopting a Rent Deferral Program.
  • Waive late rent fees.
  • Apply for COVID-19 mortgage relief with your financial institutions, if available.
  • Keep an open line of communication with your tenants throughout the pandemic to make sure you’re all on the same page.

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