One month ago COVID-19 started appearing in U.S. headlines. Now, it’s dominating them. Many states have issued some version of “stay at home.” Non-essential businesses have closed. Unemployment claims have skyrocketed.
April 1, 2020 is 5 days away. Rent is going to be due for millions of renters. Renters, who have lost work through no fault of their own, will not only be contending with the health aspect of the Coronavirus. They’ll also now be grappling with the financial fallout in trying to figure out how to make ends meet.
If you are in a situation where you will not be able to pay rent, here’s what to do immediately.
#1 – Reach Out to Your Landlord in Writing
As soon as you anticipate not being able to pay your rent in full, communicate this to your landlord or property manager in writing. Email is sufficient.
Why in writing? Because this health crisis will likely continue for many more weeks, potentially months. At this point, renters will not be absolved of paying rent. As relief programs surface, you will want a reference date to identify when your financial struggle began.
#2 – Explain Your Situation
Renters will experience hardships in different ways as a result of the Coronavirus. Some will lose jobs. Some will be required to quarantine without pay due to exposure. Some will become sick. Be transparent with your landlord or property manager in regards to how the virus is impacting your ability to pay rent.
Most landlords and property managers are going to respond to this crisis with empathy and compassion. If you’ve been a responsible tenant up to now, that will matter. Make certain to call out your good standing in your outreach to express that you can’t pay rent when that time comes.
#3 – Consider a Partial Payment
Rent is most likely not your only bill this month. You may have a car payment. You need to buy food. You may even have medical expenses. At the same time, there are also supplemental expenditures in your monthly budget that have come to a screeching halt. You’re not getting your nails done, you’re not eating out, you’re not taking clothes to the dry cleaner, and you’re not buying non-essential items.
Look at your overall budget, identify funds that have freed up, and reallocate those expenditures to your rent. The inability to pay rent is not binary; yes I can, no I can’t. Can you make half of your rent? Or a third? Even if it’s just a fourth, it’s something. It will convey good will to your landlord that you understand the value and necessity of the home you’re seeking shelter in through this pandemic.
#4 – Negotiate a Payment Plan
Okay. You’ve communicated your situation, that you can’t pay rent in full this month. You’ve identified an amount you can pay for rent. Now, how are you going to resolve the remaining amount once we’re all on the other side of this worldwide economic downturn?
What’s important here is to demonstrate that you have a plan. Or minimally, that you’re interested in figuring one out.
Indicate how much rent you anticipate being able to pay, that you’re keeping track of what is owed, and that you’re making arrangements to pay back the rest.
Here’s a sample spreadsheet you could create to determine your own calculations. Please note that the estimate for when the economy restarts is simply a prediction.
#5 – Pursue Outside Assistance
You’ve looked at your own budget, explored all possible ways to cut back on unnecessary spending, and shifted what you can. Now, it’s time to seek out additional support.
If you lost your job, or the freelance work you contract out has dried up, check out what assistance is available through unemployment benefits. Here is a Federal resource that links to another which can guide you to State support.
The House of Representatives just passed a $2.2 trillion relief package. Included are direct payments to Americans who qualify. The amounts are contingent on household income earned in 2019. Here’s a helpful breakdown. If you qualify to receive a check, consider dedicating a portion of it to rent.
Even with these resources, you may still find that you need more assistance to address the inability to pay rent. The United Way has a free and confidential service to help you find local resources to make ends meet. You can either dial 2-1-1 from your phone, or check out this website for local information.
Above All Else
This is a very hard time for many. For some, the tough days have already begun. For others, they are ahead. Together, we will get through this.
Here’s an article with tips regarding how to safeguard your mental health.
Our entire Dwellsy Team is holding each and every single one of you in our hearts.