COVID-19 has brought about changes in how landlords and property managers do business. The rules of how to manage properties are unclear and may vary from one city or state to another. And with the pandemic evolving, the little you do know may be different tomorrow.
If you’re wondering what is allowed at this time and what is not, you are not alone. It’s best to become as informed as possible. The changes COVID-19 has brought about could be long term. Here’s what property managers and landlords should know at this time.
Can You Evict a Tenant for Not Paying Their Rent?
The CARES Act, which provided stimulus money for Americans, includes a moratorium against evictions for tenants in properties purchased using federal assistance or financing. Besides the federal rules, certain states may prohibit you from charging late fees or beginning eviction proceedings until after the state-mandated moratoriums are over. As the coronavirus outbreak continues, many of the moratoriums continue to extend to adapt to the economic challenges people are facing.
To navigate the situation, it’s best for landlords and property managers to work together to set up a rent forbearance program that details which tenants qualify for rent relief and how. Once the program has been established, inform your tenants about the program to avoid any confusion.
A crisis communication plan should be established that creates a standardized method to keep tenants updated about their rights and options during this challenging time. The best way to keep tenants updated is by drafting a letter informing them about the forbearance program and other information related to the COVID-19 situation and mailing the letter to each tenant. Sending it via certified mail can help you keep track of who received it. The information should also be posted in public areas such as hallways, bulletin boards, or mailboxes.
Can You Continue with Maintenance and Remodeling Projects?
For many property managers and landlords, concern about putting tenants at risk (or the contractors themselves) if they need to make repairs is a common worry. If the units are empty, it’s not necessary to stop improvements at this time. In fact, it’s the best moment to initiate any upgrades to units while the housing market is on hold. Getting the work done now means your units will be ready when shelter at home mandates are lifted.
As for essential repairs in tenant-occupied units such as plumbing issues, broken appliances, or burst water pipes, communication in advance is advisable to safeguard the health of tenants and maintenance workers. Tenants should be given an appointment time when the maintenance technician will visit.
The management office should recommend that residents remain in their bedrooms or other areas away from the technician. The technician should wear protective clothing such as gloves, masks, and face coverings. During the visit, the technician, residents, and pets should maintain a distance of at least six feet from each other. Residents should sanitize the work area and all surfaces with a disinfectant spray once the technician leaves as well as wash their hands. Technicians should also wash their hands properly and discard protective equipment used during the visit.
If a portion of tenants are not paying rent at this time, landlords may be short on the money required to pay for improvements and maintenance. Fortunately, there are several financing options available for home improvements.
Working Together is Key
Open and regular communication between tenants and owners is the key to getting through these uncertain times. Implement a plan to address the safety and financial concerns of all involved and keep your tenants updated to weather the COVID-19 risk until it’s over.
Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but real estate topics are his favorite. When he isn't writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.