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How to Handle Rental Maintenance During COVID-19 and Nearly 25 Percent of Americans Couldn’t Pay Their April Housing Bill by Editors of the Rental Housing Journal

Posted on 01. May, 2020 by in all, Magazine Articles

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A new survey indicates that one in four Americans were not able to pay their April housing bill in full, according to Apartment List.

The survey showed half of those respondents were able to make a partial payment to their lender or landlord, while the other half made no payment at all.

And one in eight Americans who had a housing payment due this month has not yet paid any portion of it. The survey collected 4,129 responses between April 3rd and April 5th across a panel of respondents that match the gender and age distribution of the United States as a whole.

COVID-19 AFFECTS ALL

“In the span of less than a month, the COVID-19 pandemic has completely upturned normal daily life throughout the country. With shelter-in-place orders having wiped out millions of jobs, at least temporarily, there was significant uncertainty around what would happen on April 1, the first time that housing payments were due amid this ongoing crisis,” said Chris Salviati, Housing Economist at Apartment List.

“In a nationally representative survey, we found that one in four Americans struggled with their April housing payments – 12 percent of survey respondents made a partial payment toward their rent or mortgage this month and an additional 12 percent made no payment at all.

“These strikingly high figures are well above normal delinquency rates, and the situation could worsen in the coming months.

“For example, even among renters who paid their April rent in full, the report finds that 27 percent are “not at all” or “not very” confident that they could continue to do so if shelter-in-place lasts through June.

“Given that the pandemic is still rapidly evolving, with continued uncertainty around when and how shelter-in-place guidelines will be lifted and what the long-term economic implications will be, it is troubling that we’re already seeing such a pronounced impact on Americans’ ability to pay their housing costs. Although eviction and foreclosure moratoriums are shielding many households from the worst outcomes in the near-term, it’s unclear how things will play out once those moratoriums are lifted,” Salviati said.

Some April housing key survey findings include:

  • In the wake of the coronavirus, a historic number of Americans were unable to afford their rent and mortgage payments this month, as 12 percent of renters paid only part of their April rent bill, while another 12 percent made no payment at all. A similar percentage of homeowners were delinquent on their mortgage obligations.
  • One in every nine renters had their landlord or management company proactively lower their April rent. Among those missing their full payments, 45 percent of renters and 44 percent of homeowners were able to agree to reduced or deferred payments with their landlords and lenders, respectively.
  • Delinquency is correlated with a number of demographic factors. Poorer and younger households had more trouble affording their housing payments, as did those living in denser, more urban parts of the country.
  • The pandemic’s impact on housing affordability could very likely worsen in the coming months. Even among renters who paid their April rent in full, 27 percent are “not at all” or “not very” confident that they could continue to do so if shelter-in-place lasts through June.
  • For homeowners, housing security is buoyed by greater personal savings. Homeowners are over twice as likely as renters to say they could afford housing payments for six months or more if their incomes were lost indefinitely.
  • Consequently, many renters will prioritize housing costs when government stimulus checks get deposited into their accounts. Homeowners are more likely to prioritize other forms of essential spending, and are more likely than renters to say that they will put their stimulus checks toward savings.

Landlords Working to Accommodate Renters

Responses indicate that landlords and lenders recognize the financial difficulty that many are facing in these turbulent times, and have in many cases been willing to accommodate flexibility with payments, according to the Apartment List survey.

In some cases, these concessions are even being offered proactively by property owners and banks.

  • Eleven percent of all renters indicated that their landlord proactively lowered their April rent.
  • Seven percent of renters asked their landlord for a rent reduction that was approved.
  • Six percent of renters requested to delay their rent payments and had their request approved.
  • Among those who were not able to pay their full April rent, 45 percent received some sort of concession, having agreed to a reduced or deferred rent payment ahead of time.

How to Handle Rental Maintenance During COVID-19 and 6 Actions Landlords Can Take to Support Residents Now 

How to handle rental maintenance, along with personal protective wear and equipment, was covered by Paul Rhodes, National Safety and Maintenance Instructor at the National Apartment Association Education Institute, during a recent video.

Rhodes said in handling rental maintenance during COVID-19, the first thing in dealing with maintenance in our communities is that “everybody’s on the same page.

“I think that what we should be starting with is clear, consistent communication with our residents.”

Rental Maintenance and Communication with Residents

“First, let’s make sure that we send out information to our residents, letting them know that we’re here,” Rhodes said. “We are still here to provide service that is expected because ultimately we’re looking to make sure that both our technicians, our buildings, and our residents are all being safe.

It might be a good idea to remind residents that if they call for service, we are going to be coming from other apartments and that we will be taking appropriate precautions.

It’s also a good opportunity to spread more good information. In other words, give the CDC latest guidance webpages or information, plus if there are any local resources that our city or county or municipality has and can provide for our residents.

Fire, Flood and Blood Emergencies

We want to make sure that our residents are aware of the fact that we are going to respond to an emergency, Rhodes said.

“As far as what constitutes an emergency – that’s going to change community to community, or management company to management company, but the ultimate slang saying of fire, flood, and blood still does apply.

“Be sure that it’s clear what we’re going to be responding to and that for any phone calls, or email messages, or anything like that that comes in, we’re going to attend it to as quickly as possible,” he said.

6 Actions Landlords Can Take to Support Residents Now 

On behalf of the 40 million Americans who call an apartment home and the 17.5 million jobs the industry supports, the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) is suggesting six actions landlords can take to support their residents in light of the developments surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, according to a release.

“This crisis is testing all of us – every industry, every family. No one should lose the roof over their head during a pandemic. That’s why our members are taking action and why NMHC proactively issued a series of principles to assist renters, including a halt to COVID-19 related evictions and the establishment of payment plans for residents who are unable to pay their rent because of the outbreak,” NMHC President Doug Bibby  said in a release.

“We welcome the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s decision to offer mortgage forbearance to multifamily housing property owners who suspend evictions for those who have been financially impacted by this public health emergency. This is a necessary step. Most property owners are small businesses and they are committed to working with public officials and residents to keep families safe during this national crisis,” Bibby said.

6 Actions Landlords Can Take

The NMHC suggests landlords and apartment firms consider adopting the following principles to help America’s renters retain their housing during this crisis.

No. 1 – Halt evictions for 90 days for those who can show they have been financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. (This would not apply to evictions for other lease violations, such as property damage, criminal activity or endangering the safety of other residents of the community.)

No. 2 – Avoid rent increases for 90 days to help residents weather the crisis.

No. 3 – Create payment plans for residents who are unable to pay their rent because of the outbreak, and waive late fees for those residents.

No. 4 – Identify governmental and community resources to help residents secure food, financial assistance and healthcare, and share that information with residents.

No. 5 – Communicate to residents that it is a priority for the industry to partner with them to help them retain their housing.

No. 6 – Develop a response plan for potential COVID-19 exposure.

“We also recognize that most rental properties are owned by individuals and small businesses that have financial obligations, including mortgages, utilities, payroll, insurance and taxes,” the NMHC said in the release.

“If residents cannot pay their full rent obligations because of the COVID-19 outbreak, then owners are at risk of not meeting their own financial obligations. This puts the individual property and the larger community in which it is located at risk.

“Congress must extend mortgage forbearance to rental property owners and extend similar protections to other financial obligations such as insurance premiums, utility service payments and tax liabilities. Forbearance is needed to prevent foreclosure and other adverse actions such as lien placements, utility shut-offs, defaults, and judgments that would negatively impact the viability of the property’s continued operation and ultimately put its residents at risk of additional disruption.

“We also continue to call on Congress to provide disaster-housing assistance for renters who are suffering from income disruption as a result of the pandemic.

“At a time when many American workers are being encouraged to work from home, multifamily owners and operators are on the front lines, keeping residents cared for and safe in their apartment homes,” the NMHC said in the release about six actions landlords can take.

“These are trying, even desperate times, and all of us face grim uncertainty in the days ahead. However, by working together – apartment residents, owners and operators, and lawmakers at all levels of government – we can develop solutions to the evolving challenges and keep Americans housed,” the association said

 

[Editor’s Note:]  Below is what is recommended by Gary Rhoades – the Deputy City Attorney in the Public Rights Division of the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office:

COVID-19 is highly contagious and the virus can last for days on several types of surfaces. Therefore, do not enter homes, especially without informed consent of those with COVID-19 risk factors, unless it is for a critical repair or emergency involving a condition that makes the apartment uninhabitable. Uninhabitable conditions for these purposes include but are not limited to the following: lack of running water, lack of hot water, lack of heat, infestation of insects or vermin, inoperable toilet, serious water leaks, and lack of electricity.

If an entry is necessary, the person entering the unit should do the following: 1) Maintain social distancing of at least six feet from the tenants (and their children); 2) Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, mask, and safety glasses; 3) Wash hands for 20 seconds before entering the unit; 4) Do not enter the unit if you have the three COVID-19 symptoms recognized by the CDC—fever, cough, or shortness of breath; 5) Do not touch your face; 6) Sanitize the gloves and any equipment being brought into the unit; and, 7) Before leaving, wash or sanitize any surfaces touched during the entry.

If an entry is necessary, the tenant herself should do the following: 1) Maintain social distancing; 2) Wash hands for 20 seconds before and after the entry; 3) Contain any pets or service animals from the work area during the repair; and, 4) Make sure that either you or the repair person has cleaned or disinfected the area in which work was done.]

 

The RentalHousingJournal.com is an interactive community of multifamliy investors, independent rental home owners, residential property management professionals and other rental housing and real estate professionals. It is the most comprehensive source for news and information for the rental housing industry. Their website features exclusive articles and blogs on real estate investing, apartment market trends, property management best practices, landlord tenant laws, apartment marketing, maintenance and more.