REDBOOK Blues – Rent Collection in Uncertain Times

by John Gillespie, WAK Property Management

COVID-19 brings numerous unprecedented challenges for our industry.  From employment practices to leasing procedures, rental housing owners and operators are coping with a myriad of unique, unforeseen operational, legal, and financial problems.

We are concerned about the health of our family, friends, employees, colleagues, and residents.   We are adjusting our procedures to ensure that our assets are maintained and our financial obligations are met.  We know it’s an extremely stressful time, so please let AATC and your industry peers know how we can help.

AATC is posting the latest COVID-19 information on its website (www.aatcnet.org).  I know NAA (www.naahq.org) and TAA (www.taa.org) and other local associations are posting information relevant to their markets.

AATC has confirmation from the City of Fort Worth’s attorney that property management and maintenance are considered essential services. It is up to each apartment owner/operator to determine which supplier partners’ products and services are necessary.

AATC encourages apartment owners/operators to communicate, communicate, and communicate some more with their renters. AATC recommends that landlords remind their renters that rent is due April 1st. AATC strongly encourages landlords to be compassionate and understanding if a renter is directly impacted by COVID-19 and is unable to pay rent—in these instances, we urge landlords to waive late fees and establish payment plans with their impacted tenants. TAA has new forms to assist with these lease modifications.

As to evictions, all Justice of the Peace court eviction proceedings are on hold unit April 19th. A landlord can continue to electronically file evictions during this period. AATC anticipates a large backlog of eviction cases once the JP courts reopen.

Following are some tips from the TAA REDBOOK to help you collect rent and other sums, short of eviction:

Diplomacy. This should always be exercised in a timely manner before resorting to other methods, except when more drastic action is prudent. Offer incentives to pay rent prior to the 1st.

Voluntary Lien Agreement Pending Payment of Rent. This form provides a written plan and may include collateral to be held by the rental property owner or manager, to temporarily avoid the eviction process when the resident shows a willingness to cooperate and cure existing defaults.

Eviction Holdoff Agreement. Under this form, the resident agrees to payment installments according to a specific schedule, which will affect a proposed or pending eviction.

Notice of Intent to Terminate Right of Occupancy If Rent, Utilities or Other Sums Are Not Paid. This form gives a resident three days to pay delinquency. It is NOT a Notice to Vacate. It is useful when smaller sums of money are due and unpaid.

For more information, contact Perry Pillow at ppillow@aatcnet.org

John Gillespie, WAK Property Management, is the AATC Government Affairs Committee Chair.