As the United States enters its seventh month since the first coronavirus case was recognized in the country, businesses everywhere are still scrambling to keep afloat. As COVID-19 ravages the world, many people are out of work. However, the economy appears to be showing signs of growth in the job and stock market.
Amid these changes, property owners face challenges that are unique to their market. If you have great spaces in the DC and NOVA area, you might be facing several different guidelines on how to work with renters who are temporarily out of work, struggling to make ends meet, or outright refusing to pay rent. This leads to the vital question about evictions during a crisis.
- What options do landlords have if a tenant is not paying their rent?
- What are the rules for evicting during a pandemic in the Ashburn area?
Let’s take a look at these issues closer.
A quick note: This article is not intended as legal advice. However, it can be a great introduction to steps investors can take during a crisis. If you're facing a situation that requires legal counsel, work with a competent attorney, or get in touch with the Ashburn property management experts at RentSimple!
The Current Scope of Pandemic Eviction Law
Virginia’s attorney general, Mark Herring, laid out a plan in March protecting tenants and homeowners from eviction proceedings during the lockdown. It was a temporary measure that was due to expire May 17th and would allow eviction proceedings to begin on May 18th. Changes to HB 340 provided an additional 60 days (effective May 17th) of continuance for renters and impacted properties experiencing COVID-19-related income loss not covered by the CARES Act.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam sent a formal letter to the Supreme Court, asking for an additional temporary moratorium on eviction proceedings, and the court extended the law until June 28th. During that timeframe, the governor and other officials said they were looking at options to roll out a “robust rent relief program” using CARES Act funds.
The details of the program will be released as it comes available. You can find more information for you and your tenants by going to Stay Home Virginia. This website also provides resources that may be useful for your residents, too. Keep your eyes open for Governor Northam’s rollout of the rent relief program, so you can advise your tenants of available resources. There could be a temporary financial assistance fund to aid those who are struggling to pay the rent.
If you don't feel comfortable staying on top of the shifting legal landscape on your own, turning to Ashburn property management experts is an excellent way to safeguard your great spaces and lasting returns!
Steps You Can Take as a Property Owner
When dealing with the pandemic and staying within the confines of the law, property owners can still take steps to protect themselves and maintain their livelihoods. Plus, you can still uphold great relationships with your renters when you navigate the following carefully.
Keep Careful Documentation
Even if you can’t evict at the moment due to legal restrictions, it’s critical to maintain careful records of everything. This includes keeping a record of how long a tenant has not paid rent and how many notices were sent out regarding rental collection. Document the date you sent the notifications as well as any phone calls you may have made.
Furthermore, it’s essential to note all the letters, phone calls, and in-person conversations you’ve had with your renters. You could even keep a file on the tenants who are not making rent payments; that way, you have a thorough paper trail.
Continue to Send Notices (Where Appropriate)
Even if you can’t evict for nonpayment, you can still send notices letting tenants know when the rent is due. As the landlord, you can certainly agree to work out a payment plan with your tenants so that you can keep them housed in your great spaces! If you have properties that run into the DC area, you're required to work out payment plans with your renters regardless, so this is worth consideration.
However, renters that have not had their income impacted by COVID-19 are expected to continue making their payments on time. As the property owner, you are allowed to validate whether or not your renters can make their payments. It's also important to make it clear to the great people in your great spaces that a rent freeze does not equal rent forgiveness: skipped payments will need to be paid in full down the road. That said, it's important to treat each of your renters equally with respect to these guidelines.
Evict Later If Necessary
Although no property owner wants to evict those who call their great spaces home, it may be necessary at some point to address repeat violations of your lease. In those cases, you will need to move forward with eviction proceedings—at the right time. Be sure you have the clear go-ahead from your Ashburn property management partner or legal counsel before you make a move.
Trying to deal with rent collection and evictions are never pleasant for property owners. It’s especially challenging during a crisis such as the one we are in. Working with a skilled property manager like your allies at RentSimple to deal with these issues will provide a professional angle when managing the need for an eviction.
Before you ever consider an eviction, your goal should be to nip this issue in the bud by offering payment plans where you can. You can also head off evictions simply by listening more closely to the great people in your great spaces and actively collaborating with them on solutions. The more engaged your renters are, the more likely you are to see positive responses to plans you make.
For insight on how to approach this for your Ashburn properties, download your free copy of our Collecting Rent in a Crisis Handbook!