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Protecting Both Renter and Landlord Rights in the Wake of COVID-19

September 24, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic shook up industries around the world. Perhaps one of the most affected industries in the wake of the pandemic is rental housing. Renters and landlords alike struggle from the health risks, as well as wage loss concerns stemming from COVID-19. 

In the midst of this pandemic, both renters and landlords look to protect their rights. This was already a complicated relationship due to the intimate nature of living in someone else’s property, and tenant-landlord interactions have become even more tense in some cases.

With eviction moratoriums and health concerns complicating rental housing, landlords and tenants ask: how can I protect my housing rights? 

Here, we take a brief look at the ways in which all sides of the housing equation are staying safe and legally secure.

Renter Concerns and Legal Protections

Different renters will encounter different challenges and concerns in the wake of COVID-19. If you’re a tenant facing the fear of eviction or work and safety issues, legal protections are in place to ensure your housing rights.

What if I can’t pay rent? 

For many renters, the COVID-19 crisis has created difficult scenarios. The shutdowns and subsequent unemployment left millions without jobs or with reduced hours. As a result, many renters are experiencing a reduction in wages that could continuously be making it difficult to catch up on rent. 

While government intervention has occurred in the form of stimulus and other CARES Act provisions, many of these protections have already expired. That is why the CDC and President Trump created an executive order imposing a moratorium on renter evictions until the end of 2020. 

An eviction moratorium prevents landlords from evicting tenants, in this case, due to issues caused by the pandemic. You must meet qualifying factors to be eligible for this protection, but if you cannot afford to pay rent, the moratorium will keep you from losing your housing. The executive order is aimed at maintaining renter safety while countering the cycle of poverty that occurs with homelessness and health issues.

This does not mean, however, that renters have the right to stop paying rent. Rent is not waived and will be due in full when all protections expire.

What about protections from landlord visits or having my work-from-home life interrupted? 

When it comes to landlord visits, all states and cities have different laws in place. Refer to your lease, but many states require landlords to give reasonable notice before entering a property. If you are immunocompromised, contact your landlord to ensure all safety precautions can be managed. 

When it comes to landlords and working from home, there should be no issue as long as the business takes place online. If you are running a business out of the rental, however—such as a beauty salon—commercial property regulations will take effect. This could lead to challenges with a landlord if the specifics have not already been arranged. 

Landlord Concerns and Legal Protections

Landlords have not been unaffected by the pandemic. Properties must still be repaired and maintained. Now, the added health risks to tenants leave room for liability issues, making for a complicated tenant-landlord relationship. Luckily, there are ways landlords can continue to care for their property with legal protections.

What if I need to enter the property for maintenance? 

The coronavirus has not negated the specifications of lease agreements. For landlords needing to conduct maintenance, the proper notice must be given to tenants. In light of the pandemic, health concerns should absolutely be addressed. Consider drafting a written agreement with tenants to ensure that everyone adheres to safety provisions, such as wearing masks and gloves when you’re entering the property, in order to maintain clarity and legal safety. 

Communication with your tenants will be useful for catching potential issues before they arise. You should have a tenant communication portal or online system in place—especially if you are renting to millennial tenants. Contact tenants through the portal to address concerns and receive consent before entering a property. As a last resort, you can follow the specifications of local laws and your lease agreement when you need to visit the property. Be mindful of health risks, regardless.

In the meantime, prioritize maintenance you can do from outside the home

What if I can’t pay my mortgage due to renter non-payment? 

The provisions in the CARES Act enabled deferred mortgage payments for many homeowners. For anyone with a mortgage obtained through or backed by a federal agency, you may qualify for assistance. Additionally, many private lenders are providing deferment plans to help homeowners deal with the challenges of the pandemic. 

Eviction is still possible for renters who are not eligible for emergency protections, though it may take a legal battle to prove ineligibility. Landlords should keep up to date with new government orders, legislation, and guidelines to understand their full protections.

Staying Safe and Easing Tensions

The tenant-landlord relationship can be a tricky one to manage. Ideally, you have found great renters for your property and don’t encounter issues on top of the stress of COVID-19. Regardless, a system of clear communication and knowing your rights will help you maintain tenant safety while easing tensions that might arise. 

For renters, eviction protections and lease stipulations exist to guarantee your housing rights. For landlords, managing with clarity and empathy will assist you in avoiding liability issues while finding potential assistance if needed. New relief programs are starting all the time, both at the government level and in the nonprofit world. In the meantime, knowing your rights is the first step to better security.