If you are a property manager, you probably know that in September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put an order out that banned evictions for tenants who cannot pay their rent because of pandemic-related lost work.
However, you may not be clear on the actual parameters of what the order encompasses or might have some questions about what it means for you from a practical standpoint.
Eviction and COVID-19
The eviction process is time-consuming and stressful. Neither landlords nor tenants want to be faced with an eviction situation, but for property managers, it may be necessary as a last resort. Even as they want to be compassionate toward their tenants, one who does not pay rent for a period of months can create serious financial challenges for some property owners.
However, the widespread economic devastation caused by the pandemic means that even formerly reliable tenants may be struggling to make ends meet and might be falling behind on rent payments because of job loss.
The Order from the CDC
First, the order does not provide the relief automatically. A few provisions must be in place.
- Renters must apply for it.
- They must be earning less than $99,000 annually if they file a single tax return or $198,000 if they file a joint one.
- The inability to pay may be related to job loss or to medical costs.
- The tenant must be making an effort to pay the rent in full and must be in danger of homelessness if evicted or might need to live in close quarters with others.
As the property manager, you can still charge late fees and penalties, and when the order ends at the end of the year, all back rent is due unless there is an extension.
Keep in mind that this is a federal order. If you live in a place that has a state or local ordinance offering greater protection, that supersedes the CDC order. State law also may vary in how it interprets some elements of the order.
If you did not have tenants who were eligible for an eviction moratorium under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act that expired in July, you may have some who are eligible under this one since it is more far-reaching.
Why the CDC?
The first question on the minds of both property owners and tenants might be what the CDC has to do with evictions. The answer is that in the midst of a pandemic, homelessness becomes a public health issue. Under federal law, the CDC is authorized to take necessary actions to prevent the further spread of disease. This is why one of the provisions for claiming this exemption from eviction is that the tenant must be in a situation in which they would be either homeless or in unhealthily crowded convictions if evicted.
In other words, while the protection might apply to a family that you rent to, it might not cover a group of college students who could return to their family homes. However, because of both the public health implications and the potential penalties involved for violating the order, it may be best to seek legal counsel and ensure you are thoroughly informed about your rights and your tenants’ rights before proceeding.
There may also be litigation challenging the CDC’s authority, but in the meantime, it is best to ensure you are meeting your legal obligations.
The Department of Justice can seek criminal penalties against those who violate the order. This includes the possibility of a year in jail and fines of up to $250,000 for an individual, depending on the severity of the situation, and fines of up to $500,000 for an organization or company.
Implications for Property Managers
Property owners who have a large cushion may be able to ride out a few months without rent, but those who do not, and this may include individuals in particular, the financial impact could be devastating because the federal government is not currently offering rent relief or help to landlords.
As a property manager, you may want to sit down with your tenants and discuss the situation if possible. Whether an eviction happens now or in six months, no one really wins such a case. Working from the assumption that your tenants genuinely want to pay their rent and remain in their homes, you may be able to work out a plan together than allows this to happen, albeit not on the same timeline of full rent at the start of every month.
As a property manager, you may sometimes have the unpleasant task of going ahead with eviction proceedings for other reasons. This order does not protect tenants who have breached the lease in other ways or for other reasons.
Good Tenant Relations
Retention of quality tenants who are also able to keep up their monthly rent payments is more important now than ever. An important aspect of this is ensuring that you can respond to their needs efficiently and effectively. A telephone answering service operated by staff trained in the industry can help you do this.
Whether there is a pandemic or another national or international crisis happening and whatever the time of the day or night, your tenants need to feel secure that if they have an emergency on the property that you manage, they can get help. A telephone answering service ensures that there is always a warm, helpful voice at the other end of the line instead of someone’s voicemail box, and experienced staff can make the decision to either follow up with you immediately or set the issue aside for you to deal with during regular office hours depending on its severity.
With the collaboration of the right telephone answering service, you can help ensure your tenants feel more secure during these uncertain times and feel confident that even when you are sleeping or away, the properties you manage are in good hands.
Centratel is an elite national telephone answering service located in Bend, Oregon. Centratel’s Property Management Answering Service assists hundreds of property managers handle overflow calls, capture leads and forward calls. Whether you’re managing rental homes, renting out apartments, managing an HOA or senior living facility, a property management answering service is an ideal solution.