Rent Is Due And Here’s What You Need To Know If You Aren’t Able To Pay It This Month
The Coronavirus pandemic has hit the economy extremely hard. Millions of people have lost their jobs due to the pandemic – in fact, we’re seeing figures not seen since the Great Depression during the 1930s.
The Latino community is particularly vulnerable to unemployment as many of the jobs being lost are in the service sector as shops, hotels, and restaurants close their doors amid widespread stay-at-home orders. According to a recent poll, more than one in three Latino households have experienced job loss due to the virus.
Obviously, these job losses are making it nearly impossible for people to afford daily essentials like food and medicines, let alone rent. If you find yourself struggling to pay next month’s rent – here’s what you need to know.
Record-breaking job losses and uncertain futures are forcing people to make tough decisions.
Across the country, tenant advocates and housing lawyers are sounding alarms that an increasing number of renters will not be able to pay rent on May 1st. What’s more, they are concerned many renters will lose their homes as suspensions on evictions phase out and rent relief is not widely available.
“We know that when the economy goes into decline, people of color always bear the brunt,’’ said Teresa Candori, communications director for the National Urban League told NBC Latino. “We will be fighting to make sure the most vulnerable communities are not an afterthought.”
In the last month, more than 16 million people applied for jobless benefits, according to the Labor Department. That number is expected to increase, and the unemployment rate may ultimately reach 32%.
Even though the coronavirus has significantly altered most aspects of daily life, one thing that hasn’t changed is the cost of living. Though some workers are fortunate to still have their jobs, many – especially people of color – will be forced to make tough decisions about which bills get paid.
First, you need to protect yourself and know your rights as a tenant.
It’s always best to be prepared. Even outside of this pandemic, you should know what rights you have as a renter. The laws are different from city to city and state to state; the best thing to do is google something like “tenants rights (NAME OF YOUR TOWN)” and find a local organization to connect with.
Right now, many governments have issues eviction moratoriums. For example, New York suspended evictions for residential and commercial tenants affected by the coronavirus for 90 days. Housing courts are closed so you can’t be taken to court for nonpayment of rent for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.
Similarly, in California, there is a moratorium on evictions for failure to pay rent through the end of May. However, you have to prove that you’re unable to pay rent due to the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. You also have to write your landlord within seven days of rent being due, declaring your inability to pay and providing an explanation as to why.
Talk to your landlord about setting up a payment plan.
Any reasonable landlord knows that people are going to have a hard time making rent. A few have even waived payments for April in recognition of that fact, and while your landlord is not likely among them, they might accept partial payment or agree to set up a payment plan. That conversation should be started as soon as possible.
There’s no way to hide from your landlord—you should reach out now if you think you’re going to have a problem making rent by May 1, and you shouldn’t avoid talking to your landlord if you haven’t been able to pay for April.
If your landlord does agree to some kind of payment plan, make sure that the precise terms are documented and signed off on by both you and your landlord. This should include how much your modified rent will be, how long that change in rent will last, and whether you will be expected to pay back any deferred payments.
Also, it’s important to know that you have a bit of leverage given the economic situation.
So aside from the many eviction moratoriums enacted across the country, even if your landlord could evict you for not paying rent – who are they going to replace you with? Right now, amid a global health pandemic, isn’t exactly an ideal time to be looking for new tenants. And with so many people out of work struggling to pay their current rent, there’s not many likely new applications out there either.
Now, you should definitely use this leverage if you have to but don’t be too pushy with it – you want the landlord on your side.
Lastly, look for help and stay on top of the news.
In March, the federal government passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus package that included direct payments of $1,200 to millions of Americans. However, that aid left out millions of others – largely already vulnerable, immigrant populations. You can check to see if you’re eligible and the status of your stimulus payment here.
If you’re in California, the state has made available stimulus payments of up to $500 to undocumented residents. And cities from Oakland to Dallas and Miami have all instituted programs to help those affected by the virus pay for their housing expenses.
You may also consider finding help from local food banks (however, those too are under extreme strain) or from mutual aid groups, where strangers help those in need.