Rental Housing - Need to Know
Frequently Asked Questions
You as the landlord/manager have no obligation for how people report and act while infected with COVID-19. Please see the section "As to tenants" above. However; we recommend tenants follow the CDC's guidelines for self isolation, physical distancing, and increased sanitation practice. You can refer all of your residents to these recommendations.
While it is best practice to check your property for damage, leaks, and breaks there is no 'clearance' your property must receive in order to allow tenants to continue living there. If there is damage discovered and you are not in a position to remidee it in a timely manner the tenant may have the right to vacate the property. For more info see our section above on the earthquake or UAA education material on the Utah Fit Premises Act.
So far it appears that the measures taken by the president's administration only affects HUD loans and HUD owned rental properties; however, this situation is fluid and we will update you as updates come through. But for now it only affects those properties.
Right now the recommendation is that landlords, who are in a position to do so, work with tenants who may be struggling to come up with April's rents as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. For information on how to do so please see the section above titled "how to handle April's rent payment".
This is partially true. Right now the courts are not meeting as they are trying to practice social distancing recommendations. This is a very temporary situation that should only last a couple of weeks. Evictions are allowed to proceed forward but you should anticipate court proceedings to take a few weeks longer than normal. (side note: this is another good reason to potentially work with tenants struggling with April's rent if you are in a position to do so)
You as the property owner/manager are not required to do any of these things. However, it is best practice for all of us to do our part in helping prevent the spread of communal diseases. We would encourage you to take any appropriate action you see fit to play your part in this community effort.
Yes! On March 28, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued an "Advisory Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response." The memorandum contains an updated "Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce" advisory list that identifies workers who perform operations and services essential to protecting state and local communities and ensuring continuity in critical functions. On page 15, the guidance calls out “Residential/Shelter Facilities and Services,” specifically identifying as essential:
- Workers responsible for the leasing of residential properties to provide individuals and families with ready access to available housing.
- Workers responsible for handling property management, maintenance, and related service calls who can coordinate the response to emergency “at-home” situations requiring immediate attention, as well as facilitate the reception of deliveries, mail, and other necessary services.
For more information and guidance on how to operate under these guidelines visit: https://www.naahq.org/coronavirus-guidance
One of the most critical things for everyone involved with COVID-19 is communication. The first step in encouraging tenants to pay rent is to communicate with them about their needs and how they may have been affected by COVID-19. The second step is to inform the tenant about why paying rent is important for both of you. The third step involves being sympathetic towards the tenant. In any difficult situation, humans often want to vent and get things off their chest. Understand that most of the time the tenant is simply expressing their frustration and not personally attaching you. Lastly, direct the tenant to resources that can potentially assist them with rent (like the states website www.coronavirus.utah.gov. Lastly, where possible, we recommend that you do work with tenants on April’s rent. Create an interactive process where you and the tenant can find a win/win scenario.
Probably not. Communication is key. Under the circumstances, and the microscope the media had on us right now, we encourage you to attempt to contact before you serve legal notices in April. Here is a sample letter you can email or post, explaining options but highlighting the important e of paying rent.
Again, except in rare cases avoid evictions for now. That said, there is no Utah eviction moratorium. Most owners and managers can still do an eviction. The only eviction moratoriums are federal.
- HUD owned/managed properties cannot do evictions. This is 7 million units nationally, about 5,000 units in Utah.
- Apartment communities whose loans are “Enterprise-backed” (Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac guaranteed) will be allowed to have 90 days mortgage forbearance (meaning you can put off paying for three months and the loan will just be expended three months). However, the stimulus act the President just signed also prohibits those building from doing evictions for 120 days. Make sure you know if your property has one of these loans (43% of multifamily do). If you have rental building four units or smaller, most do not have such loans, but if you have an FHA backed loan, make your attorney aware of it if you do need to do an eviction. They will figure out if the moratorium applies to you or not, but likely not.
Not if you are one of the properties with a HUD or Enterprise backed loan. And, it may be unwise to do notices right now. Asking someone to move during a lockdown isn’t really feasible. We are hearing many property managers are not doing leasing and it is very hard to find a new place. We encourage you that if you do end of term notices, they have 90 or 120 days notice to give plenty of time for tenants to find a new place. However, consider the possibility that if you do give notices, the renter may stop paying and you may not be able to evict (in certain properties with certain loans). Now is not the time for emotion. Every decision should be pragmatic and designed to look accommodating and reasonable. Its not the time to draw lines in the sand or be too firm. The media and our society will not look positively on landlords using emotion right now.
DOs – be reasonable and work with tenants where possible; negotiate with the tenant and create an interactive process; try to use sympathy and empathy as best as possible, you may find that most tenants are reasonable but may just need to express their stress to get it off their chest. Be pragmatic, If you gave someone notice to be out at end of March, it is unlikely they can find a place. Expend the notice if possible 90-120 days. If you can take half rent or a portion, and sign a repayment addendum, do that rather than insisting on full rent. No one is asking you to waive rent – just wait until the stimulus or unemployment check comes!
DON’Ts – Avoid acting emotionally. Do not lecture or text tenants right now. If you need time to compose yourself and your response before you send it do. WE are seeing communications to tenants from emotional landlords used against them in the media and the courts. Be kind. Bend over backwards. Don’t get offended when stressed out tenants unload on you. A renter yesterday lost it with the landlord and told them to stick something where the sun didn’t shine. The landlord gave a 120 day notice to terminate tenancy. 30 would have been normal, but under the circumstances, too short. Do not harass the tenant or call them repeatedly, be patient in trying to work with them through these issues. You can politely insist they sign a rent deferral agreement. Do not panic, these issues will take time to get through but we will get through them.
The Small Business Administration is providing disaster assistance loans: SBA's Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in assistance for a small business. These loans can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing. Further resources can be found here and on SBA's websites: www.SBA.gov/coronavirus and www.SBA.gov/disaster.
On March 21st, The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service are providing special tax filing and payment relief to individuals and businesses in response to the COVID-19 Outbreak. The filing deadline for tax returns has been extended from April 15 to July 15, 2020. The IRS urges taxpayers who are owed a refund to file as quickly as possible. For those who can't file by the July 15, 2020 deadline, the IRS reminds individual taxpayers that everyone is eligible to request an extension to file their return.
For more information and specifics on what is included in the filing and payment relief go to: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/payment-deadline-extended-to-july-15-2020