The global pandemic has coated life as we know it in a layer of uncertainty especially dealing with COVID-19 as a Landlord . Things that we all once took for granted are no longer; from job security to shopping for groceries, it has changed everything. As a landlord, with proper screening measures and due diligence, it’s all but guaranteed that your tenants will pay rent, and you’ll cover your investment. COVID-19 has changed all of that.
Today, an income property may very well be occupied but not producing revenue. As a result of the pandemic, 26 million Americans and counting have lost their jobs. That means some must choose between paying for their food or their rent. Because of that, your tenants may be living in your unit and unable to make rent payments.
Another possibility is that your last tenant turned over just as the pandemic was ramping up. Perhaps they moved in with a family member during social distancing or simply moved on to a new home. Whatever the case, your income property is sitting vacant, and you’re growing worried. (Psst! Whether you’re running a short-term rental property or a more traditional, year-long lease, we can help with that.)
Right now, many landlords are in a difficult position. While many US states and cities have instituted Eviction Moratoriums that essentially mandate that landlords defer rental payments, no immediate assistance is being offered to them. Whether your unit is occupied or vacant, you may find yourself without that revenue stream. So, how to cope with COVID-19 as a landlord without rent checks coming in? We outline a few of your best options below.
Check Your Mortgage Backer
Landlords whose mortgages are owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have immediate options available to them. They have released directives permitting landlords of multifamily properties to delay making monthly mortgage payments for a temporary period without incurring late fees, having delinquencies reported to credit agencies, or being at risk of foreclosure. In exchange, you cannot evict tenants unable to pay rent due to COVID-19.
The CARES Act provides some relief for landlords, but not nearly enough. By now, everyone is very familiar with the Act. Arguably the most well-known portion of it is the now-famous “stimulus checks” it provided to taxpayers across the country as a form of relief during this economic shutdown.
These checks can be a real lifesaver for both you and your tenants. As the checks come in, they should alleviate some of the financial strain your lessees are feeling, allowing them up to pay rent.
As a landlord, consider putting your stimulus check towards your rainy day fund to cover the months you may go without collecting rent on your property. While this is certainly not ideal, the relief money should at least soften the blow. And remember, the lack of incoming rent is a temporary situation –– any missed rent is not forgiven, but will ultimately need to be paid to you.
Another covenant of The CARES Act is known as PPP, or Paycheck Protection Program. While this has been a crucial lifeline for many small businesses and their employees, it is unlikely to benefit most landlords. Unless you have employees on the payroll, you likely do not qualify for it.
However, do not write it off entirely. If you pay yourself with a W2 or 1099 for maintaining or managing your own property, you may qualify for some aid under PPP. It’s certainly worth investigating.
The EIDL, or Economic Injury Disaster Loan, is the best option for most landlords. It predates The CARES Act, but it was loosened under it. The loan can only be used towards certain things, most notably for landlords is for paying rent or mortgage.
The online application process takes about 30 minutes. The SBA, or Small Business Administration, issues funds based on credit score and financial need. It’s crucial you know how much rent you’ve lost since January 30, 2020. Be sure to include any projections of future losses you think you can reasonably justify, too.
The EIDL Grant, like the PPP, has become a hot commodity. In fact, in mid-April, the SBA suspended accepting new applications because they ran out of money. On April 23, 2020, legislation passed allocating another $60 billion for EIDL, and the SBA is again accepting applications. If you believe you may qualify, you’d be wise to apply as soon as possible, as they may run out of funds again.
If you don’t qualify for any of the above options, you can’t wait for your application to be reviewed or funds to hit your account, you should check with your lender. Some lenders have implemented deferral plans during the declared emergency, and others are offering other forms of help during the hardship.
Other options to explore include leveraging your property’s equity with home equity loans or refinancing your current mortgage, either for cash back options or for a better rate going forward.
Work with Your Renters
No matter what options you do or do not qualify for, there are some words of wisdom for any landlord experiencing hardship during this pandemic. It’s crucial to keep your tenants happy. Avoid turnover. A rented unit is better than a vacant unit in almost any scenario. You want to work with your tenants to keep your property filled, saving you money and time on advertising, screening, and filling vacancies. Remember, a rented unit means rent coming in –– either now or in the future. Remember, missed or partial payments are not forgiven.
On that note, accept partial payments from tenants if they’re unable to pay rent in full. Communicate in writing about payment expectations and keep a written ledger of rent paid and owed. While you’re likely already doing this –– or you should be, even when not in a pandemic –– it’s more important than ever to carefully track what has been paid and what is still outstanding.
Additionally, you should help renters stay abreast of local funds directed at assisting renters to pay their rent. Both Colorado and the city of Boston have each set aside $3 million for rental aid, while Columbus, Ohio, has set aside $1 million. Likely other states or local ordinances are implementing similar relief funding, so be sure to leverage these funds to your tenants’ and your advantage.
Above all else, remember that we are all humans first and this pandemic, while scary and financially uncertain, is temporary.