Due to the health impacts and job losses caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, it has become difficult for many people across the country to make their rent payments. The has not gone unnoticed by government officials, as several cities and states across the U.S. have issued extensions to rent deadlines, and in some cases have passed moratoriums on evictions altogether. In particular, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker paused the enforcement of residential evictions until April 8th, while Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb has issued an executive order that has paused evictions and foreclosures until the current state of emergency is over. Yet even if you are operating in an area that hasn’t put evictions on hold, it would generally be bad form to demand that tenants pay their rent on time when many of them simply don’t have the money. Taking a hard-nosed approach to rent collection during this time of crisis is an easy way to ruin your reputation and hurt your business in the long run.
Be Empathetic & Understanding
The COVID-19 crisis has been a stressful and scary situation for everyone, including your tenants, so it’s more important than ever you approach them with empathy and professionalism. If you are a landlord or property manager right now, it would be easy to go into the situation frustrated and angry about tenants failing to pay their rent. However, this is a surefire way to exacerbate the situation and damage your reputation among tenants. No landlord likes to see their tenants default on their rent, but you shouldn’t risk your long term business in the name of short term issues. Obviously, landlords still have mortgages to pay, but there are options for financial relief: smaller landlords can call their lender and should be able to defer payments through forbearance. Furthermore, bigger landlords can actually receive breaks from the recent government rescue plan if they have government-backed loans, skipping some of their loan payments through a forbearance as well. All of this means that you can take care of your own finances while also being more flexible with regard to tenant’s situations.
Collect What You Can
Though you will inevitably see an uptick in missed or late payments, not everyone has been left unemployed by the COVID-19 outbreak. As such, it is a good idea to try and collect as much of the rent as possible from those who are still working. Reach out to your residents to see who can provide evidence that they’re in financial distress because of the COVID-19 crisis. From there, you can get a sense of who is financially able to cover their rent on time. It’s important to be flexible and open to working out individual plans with their tenants to provide some type of temporary rent relief. This is mutually beneficial, as it keeps tenants with a roof over their heads and helps ensure that landlords remain financially solvent.
Help Keep Tenants Safe
While you are collecting payments or conducting any of your other regular duties, it is probably best that you avoid physical contact with your tenants. Fear surrounding COVID-19 has most people keeping their distance, so avoid stopping by their apartment unless you need to conduct maintenance or repairs. When collecting rent, try to use either online payment services or just have tenants drop off or mail their payments to you. It will ultimately be more convenient and safer for both of you. Additionally, you should do your part to keep tenants informed about the virus, including monitoring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website and offering information on preventive behaviors to halt the spread of the disease.
Be Aware Of Available Resources
Along with the incredibly helpful health information provided by the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO), many other organizations are offering helpful information and guidance for landlords and property managers during the COVID-19 crisis. For instance, the National Apartment Association (NAA) has been releasing a series of micro-webinars and helpful videos covering a number of important topics, including how to handle rent collection and what to do if a resident tests positive for COVID-19. Otherwise, you can find several valuable medical or financial resources via the White House’s official website and the websites for your State or local government.
In these trying times, we should do our best to help and support one another. The fact is, everybody is equally affected by COVID-19, so rather than let the pressure of the situation get to us, we should use it as an opportunity to demonstrate strength and empathy. We’re all in this together, and we stand a much better chance of getting through this tough situation by supporting each other than by playing “every man for himself.”
 Woollard, D. (2020, April 3). Cities and States That Have Paused Evictions Due to COVID-19. Millionacres, A Motley Fool Company. Retrieved from https://www.fool.com/millionacres/real-estate-market/articles/cities-and-states-that-have-paused-evictions-due-to-covid-19/
 Arnold, C. (2020, April 1). It’s The 1st Of The Month. Renters Are In A Much Tougher Spot Than Homeowners. NPR. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2020/04/01/825056974/renters-get-less-protection-from-covid-19-economic-disruptions
 Centers Of Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, March 31). Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). CDC. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
 World Health Organization. (n.d.). Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic. World Health Organization. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
 National Apartment Association. (2020, April 3). Guidance for Dealing with the Coronavirus. National Apartment Association. Retrieved from https://www.naahq.org/coronavirus-guidance