The topic on top of the minds of many landlords is how the coronavirus is affecting rent payments. One landlord asked on our MrLandlord.com Q&A Forum“Has anyone reached out to their local community services to see what rental assistance is available to the working poor who may be furloughed over the next few weeks?”

One somewhat sarcastic response was: “Yes, we all should call around and find out what free money … I’m sorry “assistance”… there is for our residents. We should also go and get the forms for them as well. We can drop them off when we’re cleaning their rental home and doing their laundry. 

My response: It would be very wise for landlords to call around and find out where there is assistance or relief money available. In fact, this is something I have long encouraged landlords to do, because there will always be times, sooner or later, when one or more of your good residents will need assistance for reasons other than this current challenge.

So, yes, landlords should call around and find out where there is assistance money available for residents that will cover their rent. 

Why not be able to help direct them to funds available that will help them be able to pay “your” rent? This is a win-win situation. And yes, if it means that I email the forms directly to them, I will do that as well. It is worth going the extra mile to help out a long-term resident. 

Another landlord suggested you put links on your website so that current residents can be directed to information for your local Unemployment Commission’s online filing site. Many of your renters may need this information. In addition, the United Way (and other local organizations) may be setting up COVID-19 Relief Funds. Include links to those local sites as well, which may help renters with bills, rent, food, etc.

In my opinion, it is far better to take these types of proactive measures rather than simply doing what most landlords do and sit around and complain that the residents can’t come up with the money. And then, the only option is to do an eviction (whenever that may be allowed), a situation where in most cases, everybody ends up losing.

How One Landlord is Handling the Crisis

Below is how one successful landlord is running his rentals during the crisis and the adjustments he is making. Thanks for sharing. 

“There are a few things we’re doing: We are cutting back on maintenance visits except for life-issue items such as a stove not working or toilet problems – things that NEED to be working. Maintenance will be when no one is home or with only one person present to let someone in.

Rent issues – Everyone will need to make AT LEAST HALF THE RENT on the first or close to it. Something must be paid or court action will begin. Balance will be due based on situation and at the determination of manager–part of the rent balance is due in 10 days. Another part is due in another 10 days. No late fees to be applied. This is for the first two months from the time they call with an issue. 

Our rentals are single family homes so the residents don’t speak to other residents of ours. This avoids the ‘Gee, you’re doing this for them why not me?’ scenario. Reviewing the resident’s history and file is imperative to determine how to proceed. No answer can be given without review–PERIOD. Don’t put your foot in your mouth by JUMPING OUT THERE with a statement without considering all options.

No decision will be made without an updated employment form. No decision will be made without a copy of resident’s last pay check. This will allow us to verify and update the resident’s info. We have a vigorous collection side of our company so we are not worried about collecting in the future.

We had lease renewals with increases going out– we are holding those and informing the lease holders that due to the economic environment we are holding rents steady–giving them breathing room–until the situation is stabilized FOR EVERYONE.

To this point, we have not had any calls. All rents were in by the 4th or 5th. We horse trade every month with residents because we are in the business of profit. We don’t fear the filing of court paperwork because we make income from that. Everything is considered an income stream. The phone rings on my desk and before picking it up I remind myself that this has potential for profit. This will be a first; we’re just looking to break even. We don’t want to be part of the problem people are facing. We do what we need to sleep at night.”

 

IN-HOME VISITS SAVED ME

The following account was shared by a landlord, Brad 20,000(IN), before the stay at home orders were being enforced. Once the country opens back up, you may want to once again utilize in-home visits when screening rental applicants.
I did two in-home visits and boy, am I glad I did! We normally don’t work on the Lord’s day but these people were anxious to move in so we tried to help them out.
Home Visit #1 – Due to this applicant’s awkward work schedule, we had set this up on Friday for a visit on Sunday, so they had plenty of time to clean up.  This is what I found:

Their cat had climbed up to the top of every mini-blind and shredded them and also had climbed up the door trim and scratched it all up – five feet high. There were crayon marks on several walls, food spills caked all over the sofa, brown stains on the throw rug in front of the sofa, and the front door screen was ripped and dangling. The two-year-old child was filthy. I took some photos as evidence and said goodbye.
Home Visit #2 – I was 20 minutes away and this applicant knew I was coming. He had already loaded all of his stuff into a U-Haul truck assuming he would be approved. The stove had ancient gunk baked on top; dirty dishes were piled high in the sink; the whole house was just dingy and the walls were scuffed. He said the stove and walls looked like this when he moved in. I don’t want someone who would accept a dingy, crummy apartment. The place he wanted has been newly remodeled and was clean and sharp.
On the following Monday morning, we sent each of them a text that said their application had not been approved and wished them the best of luck with their house search. In less than an hour, I saved myself from two nasty turnovers!

The Value of a Good Resident

During these challenging times, the value of a good rental resident is greatly magnified. Landlords are often quick to talk about their “problem” residents, whose actions during these times are also magnified. It’s inspiring to read of good residents, which more importantly challenges us as landlords to not only screen well but to do what we can to cultivate a good business relationship with our residents. Below is one landlord’s account of what many would agree is a good resident.

” I received an email from a single mother with a 9-year-old boy asking for my thoughts on her plan for paying May’s rent (it was just April 10) since she is out of work and hasn’t started receiving her unemployment checks. Bear in mind that this woman keeps her place spotless, has set up a special area to home school her son which is nicer than a lot of real classrooms, gets along well with the three other residents in her building, properly sorts her recycles (my personal favorite), occasionally sweeps the halls and stairs, tidies up the common laundry room, and had paid her April rent on March 27th. This is what I call a good resident and one that I will gladly work with to get through our current troubling times.”

The tips in this column are shared by regular contributors to the popular MrLandlord.com Q&A forum, by real estate authors and by Jeffrey Taylor, Founder@Mrlandlord.com. To receive a free sample of Mr. Landlord newsletter, call 1-800-950-2250 or visit their informative Q&A Forum at LandlordingAdvice.com, where you can ask landlording questions and seek advice of other landlords 24 hours a day.