Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.)
The information provided herein is general in nature and is not intended to be legal advice. It is designed to assist our members in understanding this issue area, but it is not intended to address specific circumstances or business situations. For specific legal advice, consult your attorney.
What are some alternative ways to collect rent payments?
Offer a mailing address that your residents can mail payments to if they pay by check. At this time be considerate that the mail may take longer than normal to be delivered.
Set up online payment system that accepts credit cards, there are a few online payment systems that are specifically designed for rental housing. Some of these portals include:
- Pay Rent
- Other products such as Square, PayPal, Venmo can also help you collect, and process rent payments.
How do I show rental units during this crisis?
- Consider virtual showings. Apps such as Facetime allow you to show the unit in real time without personal contact.
- Many owners and managers use lockboxes to allow prospective residents to enter and see the unit on their own. If you do this, try to find a service that provides a code for a limited amount of time and/or requires that those viewing the unit provide contact information before receiving the code.
- If you have a tenant still in the unit, consider setting aside a window of time for showing the property when the tenants are not home, if possible. Given the call for social distancing, you should consider setting up specific appointment times during that showing window.
I cannot locate good procedures for my employees while working in units with sick occupants. Where should I go to find this?
- Visit the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), better known as Cal/OSHA, website for specific guidance. Click here
▪ General Guidelines:
- Employees shall practice good hygiene including:
- Stay home if sick.
- Practice “Social Distancing”
- Employees shall wash hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds
- Maintenance staff to carry hand washing supplies in their vehicles, to be used to practice safe hygiene.
- Employees are required to wash hand for 20 seconds before and after entering/exiting occupied apartments. While working in occupied apartments employee shall wear gloves where practical for the repair.
▪ Maintenance and Repairs:
- Manager shall confirm if any occupants are sick prior to employee entering unit, and take appropriate measures following CDC guidelines.
- Requested repairs will be completed on a priority basis as maintenance staff and vendors are available.
- To protect employees and vendor safety we will only address critical and safety repairs. All other maintenance and repairs will be completed when permitted.
- In general, when repairs are required employees shall follow guidelines set by the CDC.o Open windows in work area, weather permitting.
- Pets and service animals must be contained.
- Work area and all high touch areas shall be cleaned and disinfect prior to start of work.
- Employee shall wash hands for 20 seconds prior to entry, wear disposable gloves, masks and booties.
- After completion employee shall again disinfect area, dispose gloves, mask and booties in a plastic bag before disposing in a waste container then wash hands for 20 seconds.
- When working in a household with a sick occupant, contact the CDC for best practices or visit their website.
If there is more than one (1) person in a leasing office, should we stagger their schedules OR make sure they keep at least a 6' distance between each other?
- Please refer to the guidance regarding the Governor’s “Stay at Home” order. While property owners/managers and/or their staff may continue operations, the should only staff as needed to maintain operations. This could mean just one person in the office.
FINANCIAL HARDSHIP ISSUES
A resident lets me know that there is a hardship with paying the rent, what do I do? May I ask a resident for proof?
- Many jurisdictions are implementing their own moratoriums. Please check the regulations in the city or county where your property is located as there may be a specific process for a tenant to prove a hardship.
- Yes, you can. Just be sensitive that it may be hard to obtain a copy from an employer if the business is closed, for example, bars, some restaurants and gyms.
- For wage interruptions, you may always verify with the employer. But make sure that you apply the same standards for all residents.
If I am offering any rent assistance how do I let the resident know that it is temporary?
- That should be clear up-front in any conversations you have. However, more important is to document your agreement. Refer to NCRPA Form F601 in our Bookstore.
- Remind residents that the orders in place are temporary and that nothing absolves them of their responsibility to pay rent. Even if a financial hardship delays their payment, it will be due once the emergency is lifted.
I understand that the directive regarding foreclosure relief for enterprise-backed mortgagees is for SINGLE-FAMILY HOMES only – not multifamily or commercial. Is that correct?
No, there is assistance for Single-Family Homes, as well as Multifamily and Commercial.
- Fannie and Freddie backed mortgages for single-family homes are protected from foreclosure. The industry is working to expand that to multifamily properties. HUD has also announced it will not pursue evictions or foreclosures at HUD properties.
- The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will offer mortgage forbearance for multifamily properties that have an Enterprise-back performing multifamily mortgage, for multifamily property owners if they suspend all evictions on residents that are unable to pay rent related to COVID- 19.
How about our mortgage loans? Are the banks going to waive huge late fees and penalties? Who's going to help landlords?
- California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday, March 25, that Wells Fargo, US Bank, Citi and JP Morgan Chase will waive mortgage payments for 90 days. State- chartered banks and credit unions also have agreed to the 90-day forbearance. Bank of America says it will defer payments on a monthly basis until the crisis is over. While details are not fully available, it is recommended that if you can’t make a payment you call your lender as soon as possible, be persistent, and take good notes.
Late Payment/Need for Flexibility Recommendations
- Many Americans are expected to suffer a loss of income as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, which could inhibit their ability to pay their rent and meet other financial obligations. NMHC is actively working with Congress to secure federal support for those who are negatively affected by the outbreak, including direct rental payment assistance for American families who suffer a loss of income during the crisis.
- In the meantime, we are encouraging all housing providers—to create open lines of communications with their residents to address financial, health, and other hardships that can make it difficult to cover expenses like housing. Of note, providers across the country have implemented eviction moratoriums ranging from one week to 90 days unless the eviction is for criminal or negligent behavior that jeopardizes the life, health or safety of other residents. Some recommendations include:
- Work with your residents on payment plans and agreements and be sure to put them in writing. See NCRPA’s Form F601. Members login to access the member portal.
- Waive late fees and other administrative costs over the next 60-day period at minimum.
What if my tenant wants to break their lease early?
- We recognize that this may be a very real possibility for some owners, especially if you rent to students. With classes at the University being moved to online forums only, and the threat of summer school also being cancelled, some tenants may need to make different plans for their living situation. Leases are contracts, therefore it is up to you on a case-by-case basis to decide what to do. If NCRPA or our industry partners develop further guidance, we will let you know.
Is it true I can't evict someone during the COVID-19 crisis?
- At this time, yes. The courts in NCRPA’s jurisdictions are not open for Unlawful Detainers (Evictions) at this time. NCRPA is creating forms to assist with hardship documentation and more. At this time, there is no prohibition on serving Three Day Notices, however, you will not be able to follow thru with any eviction filings until the time the courts resume processing those cases. It’s important to note that any moratorium passed does not absolve a tenant of their responsibility to pay the rent once the moratorium is lifted. It will be your responsibility (and choice) to determine how you manage a tenant’s inability to pay the rent.
What if my tenant won’t allow me or a repair person in the unit because they are afraid of catching the virus?
- First and foremost, it is important to recognize that managing people’s fears during a pandemic or crisis is very important. There may be some tenants who may be very scared about the possibility of getting COVID-19. That fear must be balanced with making sure that issues of safety and health are being taken care of. If you have a repair that is an issue of health and safety, try to work with your tenant to assure them you are only doing what is highly necessary. See if the repair person is willing to wear fully protective gear to help minimize their exposure to the tenants and themselves. If all else fails with the tenant, make sure to carefully document their refusal to allow entry, in case there is a question about the habitability of the unit in the future.
What are some Quarantined Resident Recommendations?
Apartment firms are likely to have residents who need to self- quarantine in their apartment. Recommended practices in that situation include:
- Service Requests and Apartment Access. Suspend access to the apartment for routine maintenance, repairs and inspections. The apartment should only be entered for emergency repairs. Close contact with the resident should be avoided during any entry of the apartment. Again, follow CDC Guidelines when entering units where an infected person resides.
- Cleaning Requirements. Follow the guidance of the local public health agency concerning any additional cleaning of the common areas or apartment as a result of the self-quarantine. Additional cleaning may not be recommended or required in this situation. If the public health agency or client recommends or requires additional cleaning that requires the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) or is beyond the capability of your team or regular cleaning service, consider hiring a qualified vendor to perform the cleaning.
- Package Deliveries. Follow the guidance of the local public health agency concerning package deliveries. If you do deliver packages, leave them outside the apartment door to avoid close contact with the self-quarantining resident.
- Vendor Services. Vendors who regularly provide services within apartments should be notified that service is suspended to the apartment in question, without advising them of the reason for the suspension. If you offer door side trash pickup, that may continue. Do not inform your door side service provider which apartment is affected by the self-quarantine. It is very important to protect resident privacy in discussions with vendors.
- Support to the Resident. A period of self-quarantine may be stressful for a resident. You should endeavor to be empathetic and supportive during this challenging time, keeping in mind restrictions on your ability to be in close physical contact with the resident. Set reasonable expectations with the resident about your ability to help.
- Protecting Resident and Employee Privacy. Information about the health and status of the self-quarantining resident or affected employee should not be shared with other residents or employees. Consider sharing that information with the community manager but advise the manager not to discuss it with other team members except as necessary to comply with other guidance received.
Who DOES have the authority to extend the property tax filing date?
- The Governor has the authority. An Action Alert was sent to members on March 27. We are asking that our legislators pressure the Governor to take action to suspend payments for a time, or at the very least, require counties to waive late fees, fines, and penalties.
AFTER THE CRISIS
Will insurance cover possible loss of revenue for owners of rental housing? Should we apply for government aid? Short term loans, that don't need to be paid back?)
- Planning for this outbreak, or any type of disaster, also means considering what happens after the event. More importantly, plan ahead. The human and financial impact on a company, its residents, and its operations can be damaging to a business if the recovery process is not included in your overall emergency response plan.
- In the days following an incident or disaster, it is recommended that you contact your insurance company to evaluate coverage and make adjustments. Verify whether your insurance covers your business for revenue or loss of rent.
- Check in with all residents, especially those affected.
- Evaluate whether it is time or not to reopen common areas
- On the employment side, identify any need for employee assistance programs, revisit human resources policies regarding back-to-work issues, provide counseling where appropriate or needed. For more information visit your local employer’s association website.
- Pay special attention to the availability of government aid.
- Finally, evaluate the effectiveness of your company’s Emergency Response Plan. Identify issues or failures and look to modify the plan accordingly.