With state lockdowns and social distancing in place, many people are struggling with getting bills paid. People who used to work 40 hours a week have been temporarily fto re-enforce the lockdown policies.
Here’s what you can do:
Can the federal government help?
Renters are more economically vulnerable than homeowners, said Solomon Greene, a senior fellow in housing policy at the Urban Institute. “They make less money, they have less saved up to weather emergencies and they are at greater risk for displacement and homelessness than homeowners.”
Most rental properties are owned by private landlords and therefore don’t have direct exposure to the aid provided by federal government. But there are some renters, like those in federally assisted housing, who will receive relief from the government’s $2 trillion stimulus bill, including a 120-day moratorium on evictions and late fees for people in almost all the nation’s affordable housing properties.
The stimulus bill also allows multifamily landlords with federally backed mortgages to receive forbearance on their payments. In order to get this forbearance, they can’t evict their tenants. But Greene says this will help only a small share of renters.
“Most renters don’t know what kind of mortgage their landlord has,” he said.
Some housing experts say the most beneficial assistance for renters will be the direct payments the government is providing to Americans. But the stimulus payments are not expected for three weeks or more.
Millions are wondering how they’ll pay their rent until then, said Justin Ruben, co-director of ParentsTogether, a parent run organization that is calling on Congress to freeze rents and stop evictions. “Parents are telling us they won’t be able to pay rent unless they cut back on vital food or medication.”
Only 38% of parents said they’ll be able to pay their full rent or mortgage on April 1, without cutting back on other necessities like food, according to a ParentsTogether survey that included 1,200 of its two million members. And just 30% are confident they’ll be able to pay their May rent or mortgage.
Help closer to home
A better place to look for help may be your state. At least half of our states have temporary eviction moratoriums in place, and dozens of cities have adopted measures as well. Remember that rent is still due. This is not a rent holiday.
In many cases, the burden is on the tenant to alert the landlord about their inability to pay. Tenants will be obligated to repay full rent in a timely manner and could still face eviction after the enforcement moratorium is lifted.
Be open about the struggle
Talk with your landlord about your financial situation. You may find that your landlord has voluntarily adopted rent discounts or other accommodations.
Clay Grubb, CEO of Grubb Properties, a multifamily housing developer based in Charlotte, North Carolina, was disappointed to find “Rent Strike 2020” spray painted on one of his buildings.
“It is a scary time,” he said. “People are trying to incite everyone not to pay. We want to give people some flexibility. But the rent is still due.”
Grubb decided to offer a 10% rent discount to tenants who pay on time. He’s also extending payment deadlines and split payments for those who missed the April 1st deadline. He will let them pay half the rent by April 10th and the other half by the 25th.
In Ohio, Brooklyn Ramsey is happy the rent is paid. For now.
“This is something nobody can control,” said Ramsey. “There are a lot of people that are really struggling and who will be homeless if they can’t get back to work.”