The Coronavirus COVID-19 crisis is impacting everyone and raising questions about economic impacts. A key question for apartment dwellers is, “What happens if I can’t pay rent?”
According to Terri Clifton, President of Better World Properties LLC, many landlords have voiced, “We will work with those affected by this crisis on a case-by-case basis. This crisis does not create a free pass. Everyone must do their part.” Terri Clifton is a 35-year veteran of the multifamily industry having served at all levels of the apartment industry including leasing agent, property manager, regional manager, apartment owner and now President of her own property management firm, Better World Properties LLC.
“We have been through many crises in my 35-year career. From floods to fires to hurricanes and banking crises, we weather storms and we rise again, stronger and more united than ever, ” said Clifton. Better World Properties LLC was at the forefront of recovery efforts during Hurricane Harvey, one of the costliest tropical cyclones on record.
The multifamily industry is working tirelessly with community development experts and officials at every level to develop the best possible solutions that respect the needs of affected residents, employees, suppliers, apartment owners and multifamily lenders. No one benefits when people lose their homes. We all lose when the economy comes to a halt.
“Apartment owners, property managers and apartment residents working together is the formula for navigating this upheaval. Early and honest communication helps everyone act with fairness and integrity,” said Angela Blanchard, a globally recognized expert practitioner in community development. From long-term disaster recovery to effective integration of immigrants and refugees, Blanchard’s breakthrough strategies have successfully revitalized neighborhoods, while providing a powerful roadmap for cities and communities around the world.
Landlords are obligated to follow state law and honor lease terms. However, specific policies are up to individual landlords. Most apartment owners are working with affected residents on a case-by-case basis through effective multifamily crisis management. A phone survey of apartment residents this week by Better World Properties LLC indicates the vast majority of residents are clear regarding their rent responsibilities and are prepared to meet their April obligations.
“We know most apartment residents are proactive and ready to step up and help wherever they can. We encourage all apartment residents to first reach out to their apartment management should they encounter difficulties paying rent or meeting their obligations. Then, we encourage every apartment resident to reach out to their neighbors, whether virtually or in person, while maintaining proper social distancing etiquette. Start virtual exercise workouts. Pick up groceries for elderly neighbors. Step outside on your patios and balconies and wave and ask how others are doing. This is a time for us all to stand strong together and open up more communication and outreach. This is a temporary moment in time and we all play an important and significant role,” shared Clifton.
“Our residents understand,” Clifton said. “Yesterday, a woman who is now out of work asked about cancelling her upcoming lease renewal because she is uncertain about her future. She plans to move in with relatives for a time. We were happy to make arrangements with her that will help her return to her community when she is able.”
Said Clifton, “You are unlikely to be evicted if you come up short right now, but you may be asked to document exactly how you have been affected, and you may be required to extend your lease term, or make other arrangements to make payment. There are a lot of moving parts right now and we want to make sure we work with everyone to achieve encouraging resolutions for all. We are all in this together and our successful navigation of this crisis takes a concerted effort for us to move forward effectively and efficiently. Evictions for non-monetary reasons remain a possibility. Right now, we see everyone trying to to do the right thing.”
We All Have a Role To Play
“The key is planning ahead,” said Clifton. “We all have responsibilities, and each of us has a role to play in this challenging time. I was once a single mom working two jobs to make sure my kids had a roof over their heads. Nobody has to tell me how hard it is to pay bills. I get it. Today, we are still writing checks to employees, suppliers, and service providers, but we can only do this to the extent money is coming in.”
Apartment companies throughout the region are rallying in creative ways to do their part. Some are helping to connect laid off residents with new job opportunities and social service agencies. Others are waiving late fees and picking up groceries for the elderly. Courts and government officials are helping to ensure everyone is treated fairly.
The multifamily industry is made up of millions of people of integrity that are devoted to maintaining apartment communities in a fair and honorable manner. The best thing an apartment resident can do is to communicate transparently with landlords or apartment management. We are all in this together. Life will go on after this current global viral crisis and together we will make it a better world.