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Rent Collection Amid COVID-19

Apartment buildingIn response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, NAA is working to assist owners and managers with guidance on operations related to resident collections. 

Collecting Rent

While rent collection should continue in accordance with your lease agreement, we ask that you recognize that some residents have been or will be financially impacted by COVID19, and consider working with those residents on alternate payment schedules, considering waiving late fees and providing financial resources to residents where applicable.

  • Check applicable emergency orders in your jurisdiction(s) that may direct further operations regarding rent collection.
  • To prevent continued exposure, residents should be encouraged to pay rent online if this option is available at their community.
  • If the leasing office is closed, or if an online payment option is not available, a drop box or other method for money collection should be available for residents.

Employees should handle all money collection with disposable gloves and wash their hands accordingly.

Late Fees

The Notice of Temporary Waiver of Late Fees form allows operators to waive late fees incurred by residents who, as a result of COVID-19, are experiencing loss of wages, unemployment or unexpected medical expenses.

Visit NAA’s COVID-19 Resources page for additional information, as this form has not been approved for use in every jurisdiction. As with all other NAA Click & Lease forms, please consult your local attorney before implementing such forms into your leasing operations. 

Payment Plans

Many rental housing professionals already have individual plans in place to work with their residents during this unprecedented crisis. There is no “one approach fits all.” The best strategy, and NAA’s recommendation, is for owners, managers and residents to partner together to find the optimal solution.

Questions to consider during an individualized COVID-19 assessment

  • Did the resident lose a job or have the resident's working hours been reduced?
  • Can the resident provide any verification of employment state change? Does verification exist?
  • Does the reduction in income put the resident below the typical 1/3 rent to income ratio?
  • What other external factors related to COVID-19 social distancing contribute to the loss of income?
  • Does the resident have an on-time payment history?
  • Should you ask the resident ot suggest a payment structure they believe they could meet?

NAA’s Payment Plan Agreement (COVID-19 Pandemic) form

  • The Payment Plan Agreement (COVID-19 Pandemic) form allows a resident, who is experiencing financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19, to pay rent and other monies owed at a later date.
  • Payment plans should be agreed on by both the owner or management company and the resident affected.
  • All parties should sign the document.
  • Visit NAA’s COVID19 Resources page for additional information, as this form has not been approved for use in every jurisdiction. As with all other NAA lease forms, please consult your local attorney before implementing such forms into your leasing operations.

NAA Click & Comply: Rent Relief form

  • The Rent Relief form easily documents and track requests from residents who are financially affected by COVID-19, including special arrangements or payment plans that have been agreed on by the property and its residents.
  • The form is free for six months and will allow property management companies to pull one report for each property, enabling an overview of the entire portfolio.
  • Contact Nicholas Tovar at [email protected] for more information.

Resident Communication

The most important thing that owners and managers can do is communicate with residents. Frequent and timely communication is the best course of action. 

  • Ask residents to communicate with their property manager if they are unable to pay rent in full because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Ask affected residents to provide documentation from an employer or other documentation that shows how they have been impacted by this crisis.
    • Be sure to check the local laws and executive orders in effect in your jurisdiction, which may provide additional information on what you can ask/how you can ask for documentation. 

Evictions

Update: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at the direction of the President, filed an Order in the Federal Register to temporarily halt residential evictions to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. The Order, which went into effect on September 4, temporarily bars evictions of certain qualified renters in residential housing until December 31, 2020.

We highly suggest contacting a local attorney before deciding to initiate an eviction action against a resident in the current environment as overlaying federal, state and county laws or restrictions on the judicial process may apply. This includes: issuing a notice to vacate, initiating any eviction-related action, or assessing fees or penalties on residents for nonpayment of rent or other lease violations. 

  • On March 25, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that owners of multifamily properties backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages would be granted mortgage forbearance relief. In exchange, housing providers must place a 90-day hold on evictions. 
  • On March 27, President Trump signed the H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) into law.
    • Similar to the announcement by FHFA, the CARES Act includes a provision that allows owners of properties that have a federally backed multifamily mortgage loan to seek forbearance because of a financial hardship during the COVID–19 emergency for up to 90 days.
    • This provision of the law prohibits issuing a notice to vacate, initiating an eviction filing, or assessing fees, penalties or other charges on residents for nonpayment or late payment of rent during the forbearance period. Additionally, a multifamily borrower that receives forbearance under this section may not issue a notice to vacate until after the expiration of the forbearance or require a renter to vacate until 30 days after the notice to vacate has been issued.
    • Separate and apart from the forbearance requirements, the CARES Act also creates a temporary eviction moratorium for 120 days beginning on the date of enactment which applies to covered dwellings in covered properties. The mandate prohibits issuing a notice to vacate, initiating an eviction filing, or assessing fees or penalties on residents for nonpayment of rent. Additionally, rental housing providers covered under this section may not issue a notice to vacate until after the expiration of the moratorium or require a renter to vacate until 30 days after the notice to vacate has been issued. 
    • The moratorium applies to: rental housing providers whose properties are insured, guaranteed, supplemented, protected, or assisted in any way by HUD, the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac; or **participate in the Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program; the Section 811 Housing for Persons with Disabilities Program; Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) Program; McKinney-Vento Homelessness Assistance Programs; Section 236 properties; Section 221(d)(3) below market and reduced interest rate program (BMIR); the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program; Section 8 project-based housing; HOME grantees; rural housing assistance programs; and Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) properties (**references in the law to rental housing providers of covered properties who must comply with the requirements of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994). 
    • You should communicate to residents that for covered properties under the CARES Act, the 120-day suspension of evictions in no way removes a resident's responsibility to pay rent or comply with the terms of the lease agreement. 

Bear in mind that states and localities continue to push their own eviction moratoriums, applicable to all privately-owned housing. Nationally, at least 95 jurisdictions announced eviction moratoriums in light of the spread of COVID-19 with more considering legislation or mandate by judicial action or law enforcement.

Resident Resources

Provide a list of local and national resources to help residents, such as:

  • National organizations, including the Salvation Army, United Way and American Red Cross
  • Local departments of social services and local religious and charitable organizations
  • Organizations to assist with food, utilities, unemployment and other essential items

It is important to bear in mind that many of these organizations may be unable to assist, depending on a variety of circumstance, and any resident communications along these lines should avoid making any promises of aid.

Renewals

For leases that are ending during this time, consider if a short-term lease or month-to-month lease are an option to assist residents that may not have the financial means or flexibility to commit to a long-term lease. Setting renewal increases may not be the best strategy for communities where occupancy could be an issue because of future vacancies. 

Payment Incentives

Residents that have the financial capability to pay their rent on time may be encouraged to do so if there is an incentive available. Some companies are offering enticing options such as a gift card to a local business a future discount or special offer that will take place once the pandemic is over. 

 

Disclaimer: The information provided in this document does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information in this report is for general informational purposes only. Information in this document may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. Viewers of this material should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No reader of this material should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information in this document without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. Only your individual attorney can provide assurances that the information contained herein – and your interpretation of it – is applicable or appropriate to your particular situation. Use of, and access to, this document does not create an attorneyclient relationship between the reader and the National Apartment Association (NAA) or any contributing law firms. All liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on the contents of this document are hereby expressly disclaimed.