COVID-19 has completely changed the way landlords operate for the foreseeable future when it comes to rent collection, managing maintenance, filling vacancies and evicting tenants with unpaid rent.
The purpose of this article is to give a quick and comprehensive guide to the most critical changes in the landlord landscape regarding:
1. Eviction moratoriums
2. The CARES ACT
3. Decision making when managing your property
There are two layers of government laws to be aware of when understanding late rent forgiveness and eviction restrictions during COVID-19: the federal and state level.
In the CARES act, passed on March 27th, 2020 and further appended on March 31st, evictions are banned by the federal government for 120 days from March 27th, 2020. If you own property that falls within any of the following categories, no evictions can take place until July 25th for late rent payments:
• Public Housing
• Section 8 housing vouchers
• Section 8 project-based housing
• Section 202 housing for the elderly
• Section 811 housing for people with disabilities
• Section 236 multifamily rental housing
• Housing Opportunities for Person with AIDS
• Mckinney-Vento Act Homelessness Program
• Rural Housing Vouchers
• Properties with federally backed mortgage loans (1–4 units)
• Properties with federally backed multifamily mortgage loans (5+ units):
You can see more detailed descriptions of federal restrictions of evictions here.
In many states across the country, temporary eviction moratoriums have been established. Below is an easily digestible table that allows you to quickly find and read the laws regarding your state. You can also find the table linked here.
The CARES Act is the largest federal loan program in US history. Specifically for landlords, the program offers loans up to $2M per small business. The US government has allotted $350B to small businesses (defined as companies with fewer than 500 employees.)
Please keep in mind, this is a loan for your small business that will need to be paid back.
The interest on the loan is 3.25% per year for a small business or landlord and can be paid back in up to a 30 year period.
To find the exact specifications outlined in the CARES act you can go here, and view SEC 1109 and SEC 1110.
Some of the specifics around who can apply are as follows:
• Any individual who operates under a sole proprietorship with or without employees
• Independent contractor
• A business, cooperative, ESOP, or tribal small business with less than 500 employees
• You must not have a loan already pending with the federal government
• Your business must have been in operation through January 31st, 2020
Outside of understanding if your property is eligible as a small business, one must also take into account the restrictions on what the loan can be used for. Fortunately, the loan can be applied to a mortgage or rent payment. The loan can be applied to the following areas:
1. Providing paid sick leave and payroll for employees
2. Increased costs associated with a break in the supply chain
3. Making rent or mortgage payments
4. Repaying obligations that could not be met due to revenue loss
There is a domino effect occurring due to COVID-19 and shelter-in-place being implemented across the nation. Businesses are hemorrhaging employees, especially low income and service workers. This, in effect, is creating a large group of individuals who, on April or May 1st,will be unable to pay rent. Since landlords cannot collect their full rent payments, they have been left to cover their property’s expenses, specifically covering the monthly mortgage payment.
When applying to a CARES act small business loan you will need to have the following information on hand:
• EIN number
• Revenue of your business
• Cost of operating business
• Profit-and-loss statement and balance sheet for most recent tax year
• Tax returns and tax information
• Authorization forms
• Accounting of your personal assets
• Sources of income
• Unpaid taxes
• Rent payments effected by the disaster
You can apply online here: https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#.
Finally, let’s take a closer look at the day to day operations of landlords and what systems need to be shifted due to the new outbreak.
The terms shelter-in-place, six feet of separation and high-risk individuals have all become common to us in the past few weeks. How these terms affect landlords and property managers is a bit more tricky. For the remainder of this article, I will outline what to do in the time of COVID-19 regarding maintenance, listing and apartment showings and payments.
Is it an emergency? This is usually the question that crosses any landlord’s mind when they are first notified of a tenant’s maintenance needs. During COVID-19, this question is critical. If a maintenance need is not an emergency, do not risk the lives of your tenants, yourself or your maintenance workers by sending them into the apartment to fix the issue. All non-emergency, non-required maintenance needs should be postponed until after the emergency has passed. A good general rule is that any major electrical or plumbing needs will still need to be handled, anything else can wait. An example of a non-emergency would be the hot water heater breaking — it is a strong inconvenience for the tenant but is not dire. This would not be worth the risk if the to fix the water heater a plumber or landlord had to enter the property. An example of an emergency can be a broken water main that was flooding all the apartments on the floor.
I’ve seen worrying communication on BiggerPockets and other forums of landlords asking if it would be safe to show rental listings if the prospective tenants and landlords wore masks and gloves. There should not be any rental showings during shelter-in-place, regardless of protective measures taken. Even with gloves and a mask, prospective tenants could be leaving traces of COVID-19 in the air or on surfaces in the apartment. Additionally, spaces within units can be small, offering prime opportunities for the 6 foot radius rule to be broken. Right now, all future rental showings or rental showings should be postponed indefinitely. However, there are creative alternatives, such as virtual rental showings and video tours that can be used to still offer tenants with intimate understanding of the apartment without actually stepping foot into the apartment.
There are 11M independent landlords in the United States. Most collect payments via check slipped under their door or left in their mailbox. Because COVID-19 lives on cardboard and paper for up to 48 hours, the simple act of collecting a check from tenants is now an at risk task for landlords. Moreover, asking tenants to do this forces them to leave their quarantined apartment and put themselves at risk. Landlords should be offering alternative forms of payment that allow a tenant to pay a landlord from the safety of their apartment.
We covered a lot of information about COVID-19’s impact on landlords and property managers. The goal here was not to scare, but inform. Everyday, the landscape for landlords,tenants and people living in the US is changing, and it is the landlords responsibility to adapt accordingly.
If you would like to learn about Homeward’s suite of products including online payments, tenant-landlord communication and the future roadmap including virtual listings, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.