The world is in uncharted waters and filled with uncertainty right now. Even as we steer beyond the public health crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, it doesn't appear to be going away any time soon. Without a clear vaccine on the horizon, and with many of your renters currently wondering how they'll make it to the end of the month, now is the time for landlords in Baltimore to start considering payment plans—if you haven't already.
As an expert in Maryland property management, we know that preparation before a major crisis like COVID-19 is always your best protection when a disaster hits. However, one thing is for certain: you still need to be able to pay your bills, too. Many people are watching their jobs evaporate and their paychecks disappear as the unemployment rate passes 10 percent. For landlords, many of those who are unemployed are also your tenants—or even someone in your own household.
When you're not a property owner, you may not see the harm in slogans like #CancelRent or #RentZero. Sadly, we know as the experts in Maryland property management that when landlords can't afford to pay their bills, everyone loses:
- Without funds to cover their overhead, property owners can't provide a safe and secure home to their renters.
- Without reliable rent payments to cover the cost of a mortgage and property taxes, landlords could lose their property.
- Once a property is foreclosed on, the renters living there lose, too: banks are not very forgiving, and without government intervention, property owners are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Despite what many may perceive, the majority of property owners are not extremely wealthy or greedy. They, too, have bills to pay and expenses to cover. Many landlords manage their rental properties while also having a full-time job or trying to run a business. The reality for a majority of property owners is that they rely on rental payments as a significant part of their primary income.
The best way to deal with such situations is to have a plan. With that in mind, understanding how to balance your own needs with those of your renters rests at the heart of such planning. Property owners know that your renters are, in some sense, your neighbors: compassion during this time is crucial.
However, making decisions on the fly or as issues arise can lead you towards choices that may harm your income, your properties, and your renters down the road. Develop your payment plans from the right perspective with these tips from the Maryland property management experts at Renters Warehouse.
Please note: This article is not intended to be used as direct legal counsel. When in doubt, you should always reach out to your attorney or your Maryland property management partner!
Crafting Your Payment Plans the Right Way
Step 1: Understand Local, State, and Federal Law
- Many cities and states have certain orders in place right now that impact the kind of payment plans you can propose.
- In Washington DC, for example, the DC Council has banned lump-sum payments and is enforcing payment plans for all property owners.
- This flexibility by city makes it crucial to check on legislation passed right here in Baltimore when drafting options.
Step 2: Create an Installment Strategy
- If a tenant comes to you and says they will not be able to pay rent this month, work with them to figure out how they will pay off the rent over time.
- Great options for this are to have them pay a small amount now and roll the remaining amount due into future payments across the duration of the lease.
- When considering this option, work with both the budget of the renter in question and what you can afford as the property owner. The goal is to find a healthy middle ground.
- Regardless of the options you provide, address them in writing as a professional addition to your lease. Working with your property manager to develop the right language here is crucial.
Step 3: Communicate Often and With Care
- Document every interaction with your tenants, whether by email, text, or traditional paper notice. You may need this later to show that you have been proactive in providing options.
- Provide your renters with alternative options for paying their rent and a list of resources they can turn to for aid, such as charities or food pantries to help with groceries.
- Be sure to show empathy and make your tenants feel like they can openly communicate with you about these issues in advance by being welcoming in all your interactions with them and staying consistent.
Step 4: Consider Asking for Verification
- As a landlord, check with your attorney or with your Maryland property management partner to see if this is something you can apply when it comes to your payment plan options.
- If applicable, it's always a good idea to have renters verify their lack of income to make sure that those who can still pay do so. This better protects your tenants who cannot afford to pay this month by making payment options available where they're needed most.
- As a property owner, this also gives you a better idea of what you can—or will have to—afford moving forward based on the number of renters who require a payment plan.
Step 5: Consider Your Own Options
- If you do not have enough money in savings to cover the lack of rent coming in, contact your lender and see if they can be of any help.
- Be transparent and explain your situation. Tell them how much money you have lost, your monthly expenses, and how much you could reasonably pay every month to avoid defaulting.
- Landlords should also look into government loans or other protections that may be extended to them under the CARES Act or by local ordinance.
Step 6: Rely on Maryland Property Management to Help You Collect
- Your Maryland property management partner can advise you on how to proceed, help you draft payment plans, and even help you pursue late or lost rent.
- Property experts like the Professional Landlords at Renters Warehouse are experts in managing renter relationships while ensuring that property owners get paid.
To see our strategy in action, contact us! We'll show you how much easier it is to rent your home confidently—even during a crisis—when you work with Renters Warehouse BW Metro!