As of April 1st, the global pandemic has already infected over 897,000 individuals across the globe, resulting in approximately 44,000 deaths worldwide. In addition to its shock to the global health system, coronavirus has also impacted the global economy; halting assembly lines, tanking small businesses, and forcing families to make tough financial decisions. And unfortunately, the real estate market is no exception to the destruction COVID-19 has initiated.
As a landlord, the effects of the pandemic may translate to changes in regard to your rental property, mortgage, and tenantship. In this article, we’ll discuss what changes you can anticipate and how you can respond to the global crisis in a responsible, effective manner.
Understand local tenant and landlord rights
To help homeowners and tenants who have lost their income due to COVID-19, government officials and lenders have introduced more flexible repayment terms, proposed moratoriums on rent, and prohibited rent increases, among other measures. But it’s important for tenants and landlords alike to be able to distinguish what’s fact from fiction so that both parties can find stability during these turbulent times.
Regulations on rental properties vary by state, and sometimes even by city and county municipalities, and during this pandemic, rules are subject to change as communities attempt to minimize the social and economical impact.
When researching your area’s local regulations, go to trustworthy sources such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s fact sheet on coronavirus, and be on the lookout for city and county directives. Complying with these guidelines will help ensure that both you and your tenants are protected and positioned to avoid legal action later on down the line.
Prepare for changes in tenantship
The unfortunate reality of our current situation is that many of us will be directly affected by the economic impact of coronavirus. Approximately 6.65 million Americans have already filed for unemployment in just two weeks since the virus started to have a broad impact on the US economy. As a result, many Americans could be forced to vacate their rentals in favor of cheaper living accommodations.
If you manage multiple properties or units, chances are, you will experience some level of tenant changes. While this could certainly impact your bottom line, it’s important to prepare to fill these spaces once things begin to level out again.
If you do have tenants terminate their lease, it’s important to take appropriate health and safety precautions before listing your newly available unit. Here are a few tips to help you do so:
- Suggest safe move resources to your tenants: Many moving companies are offering minimal contact moves to help individuals conduct their move with as little risk as possible.
- Hire professional cleaning services: Before leasing out your space to new tenants, it’s critical that you ensure that it’s clean and safe for move-in. Instead of exposing yourself to potentially dangerous circumstances, consider hiring a professional cleaning service that has the protective gear and equipment to properly restore your rental unit.
- Continue tenant screening: It’s an unfortunate reality of troubled times, but there are malicious people that take advantage of the vulnerabilities brought on by crises. To avoid ending up with a scheming new tenant, it’s important for landlords to continue screening applicants before approving them to move in.
Make communication a priority
Crisis or not, communication is an essential piece of upholding a positive tenant-landlord relationship. Keep your tenants informed of any changes they might expect during this time and be sure that you’re using their preferred contact venue so that you can be sure they receive any important updates you have. Better yet, send messages through multiple mediums—email, phone call, mail—so you know that everyone is on the same page.
What should you update them on?
- Rent policies: With so much information circulating about rental moratoriums and policies, it’s essential for landlords to provide accurate information to their tenants. Look to your city and state guidelines and provide citations and resources for tenants to read up on any updates that may impact their housing. If you have made updates to your policies to help tenants who have been affected, be sure to include instructions and other pertinent information about your new policies so that there is no confusion later on.
- Maintenance requests: Your tenants may still have emergency and non-emergency maintenance requests at this time, but not all requests can be honored with health and safety guidelines in place. Make sure that your tenants know what qualifies as an emergency maintenance need, and what they should do in case they experience this situation.
- Updated contact information: If your office has moved to a remote work model, let your tenants know if your contact information has changed.
Adapt to tech resources
If you do already offer online payments and tenant portal resources, consider shifting to this model at least temporarily. Being able to make cashless, online payments protects the health and safety of you and your tenants and creates more efficient and intuitive ways to keep communication consistent.
While we hope the burden of this crisis is as minimal as possible, the truth is, many of us will be impacted in different ways. Being understanding, kind, and flexible will help you maintain a positive relationship with your tenants and likely lessen the financial and emotional stress of the situation at hand.
With an open line of communication and understanding, we can make this situation as painless as can be, as landlords and as neighbors. Use these tips to help you navigate the issues and changes that the COVID-19 pandemic could impose on your rental properties.
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