Back in February, 28-year-old Ximena Kilroe, together with her husband and a roommate, thought they found the perfect home to rent. It was a brand new development in Brooklyn that has ample communal spaces, which includes a deck on the rooftop. The $2,910 rent being split among them 3 is more than manageable, too.
However, in an unfortunate turn of events, all three of them lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kilroe was laid off as a curatorial assistant for a non-profit, while her husband and roommate are both bartenders. Now, they’re all worried about how they can pay their rent.
They have already paid for their rent in April. But with zero income, insufficient emergency funds, and uncertainty on when they’ll be able to receive unemployment benefits, they’re expecting that they’ll miss their payment for May.
Kilroe’s situation is not an isolated case, though. Around 10 million Americans have applied for unemployment in the past 2 weeks. As the U.S. is rolling into the first full month of layoffs due to the pandemic, campaigns fighting to cancel rent and mortgage payments are kicking into high gear. In fact, “rent strike” became an online trend. So did the hashtags, #FoodNotRent, #CancelRent, and #KeepYourRent.
The federal government has rolled our relief efforts, but these are not enough. The Congress passed the stimulus package, CARES Act, worth $2 trillion last week. It two types of financial relief for homeowners who have federally backed loans. First, it blocks foreclosure for at least 60 days. Second, it allows payment deferral for mortgage payments for 180 days.
As for the renters, the CARES Act, as well as a number of states and cities in the U.S., have banned any eviction throughout the coronavirus crisis. Aside from that, there are no other broad reliefs for the country’s 40-million strong renters. For Kilroe, the 90-day eviction ban imposed in New York is not a reassurance. She is still hopeful that there will be legislation that enables temporary help for renters and landlords.
Kilroe has given their landlord notice for their May rent in the hopes of working out a payment plan. Financial experts and landlords approve of this step. If you’re worried about your next rent, follow this advice:
TALK TO YOUR LANDLORD TO WORK OUT A PAYMENT PLAN
Don’t wait until your next due date to make a move. Reaching out earlier can also give the landlords as much notice as possible to make a plan. It would make things easier so that both parties can work something out and would, hopefully, show them that you’re doing this in good faith.
Part of the reason why Kilroe wanted to talk to their landlord a month ahead is to show that they really paid on time even though they were all unemployed.
Leslie Tayne, founder and attorney at Tayne Law Group, advises people to give their landlord documentation as proof of their financial hardship. This may be a note from your employer or evidence that you filed for unemployment. Once you have that, your landlord may be able to offer options already.
Tayne also emphasizes that the agreements between you and your landlord must be documented in writing—it can be through an email or a physical letter. Also, Tayne says to make sure that you have thoroughly read and understood the terms before you sign and agree to it.
Although the offer will ultimately depend on your landlord, Heritage Financial Advisory Group vice president Mike Desepoli reveals that the ideal arrangement is an installment plan over multiple months. Desepoli suggests asking for a reduced rental rate for the next three months. The rest of the amount can be paid over a specific period of time.
Especially with the pandemic, everything is now negotiable, as per Desepoli. He says that the last thing landlords want to do right now is to go on another tenant search. They may be more flexible to keep their current tenant.
If you can’t hatch a plan with your landlord, you can check out the website of the Department of Housing and Urban Development for government rental assistance resources. Organizations like Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army may also have support for renters.
Kilroe is grateful that their landlord seems to be open about working on a plan with her. But she is still hopeful that a government relief for renters will finally come out. She says that we should take things day by day, be empathetic, and be generous with people in a time like this.