Rent and the coronavirus: How to avoid eviction if you can’t pay

Rent and the coronavirus: How to avoid eviction if you can’t pay

Patty Lamberti
 | 
Here at LawChamps, an online company that affordably matches and manages relationships between clients and experienced attorneys, we have seen a 300% increase in phone calls, emails and live chats from people seeking answers to Coronavirus-related legal questions.
 
Many of your concerns are about rent, specifically:
 
  • What to do if you can’t pay all or most of your rent 
  • If and when you can be evicted for non-payment or partial payment
To save you time, we have compiled a list your most frequently asked rent-related questions, along with answers from our top housing lawyers. 
 
If you have more questions about rent and your landlord, reach out to us.
 
We know money is tight. That’s why you can’t pay your rent. Rest assured that we charge far less for our legal services than most lawyers you can find on your own. 
 
Do I have to pay my rent during the Coronavirus crisis?  
 
Yes, if you can. 
 
But not right now, if you can’t.
 
Don’t feel ashamed if you can’t pay your rent. You’re not alone. According to the New York Times, as of April 8, 31% of renters did not pay rent during the first few days of April. 
 
But I seriously have no money. How can I pay rent? 
 
Let your landlord know if you lost your job, or if you have unexpected Coronavirus-related financial pressures, such as:
 
  • Paying for daycare because your child’s school has closed
  • Paying for the care of sick loved ones whose normal routines have been disrupted by the pandemic
  • A loss of savings due to stock market ups and downs
 
The more upfront and proactive you are, the better the outcome will be. Hopefully, your landlord will work with you and accept a reduced rent, at least for a few months.
 
If you got a stimulus check, consider using all or part of it towards your rent. 
 
If you have a credit card with an available balance, you can use that to pay your rent, even if you landlord doesn’t technically accept credit card payments. But only do this as a last resort. Using a credit card to pay rent will always result in fees. 
 
Remember this: Landlords don’t want to lose good tenants.  If the landlord grants you an extension or reduction, make sure you both understand when and if any unpaid rent will be due.  Some questions to ask your landlord include:
 
  • Is the landlord forgiving all or part of the rent? 
  • Will the landlord let you pay what you owe over time? If so, what is that timeline? 
  • Does the landlord expect all of the unpaid rent on a specific day? If so, what day? 
 Whatever you agree to, get it in writing. 
 
If I can’t pay, when will I be evicted? 
 
Not right now. 
 
In late March, the President and Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which includes a 120-day moratorium on evictions and late fees for properties that are secured by a government-backed mortgage.
 
To find out whether your landlord’s property is backed by the federal government, enter your rental address on these web sites: 
   
 Uh oh. My address isn’t on that list. Can I be evicted right now? 
 
No. Not right now. 
 
Your address may not be on those lists because your landlord’s property isn’t backed by the right loan. 
 
Or perhaps your landlord has already paid off the mortgage. 
 
You’ve still got time.  How much time depends where you live, however. 
 
Many cities, states, and municipalities have developed packages and passed laws for renters that include:
 
  • placing moratoriums on evictions 
  • stopping landlords from shutting off utilities due to nonpayment
  • prohibiting late rent fees
 
You can find the latest about the laws in your city and state, along with resources for help, here
 
How will my credit score be affected if I don’t pay my rent?
 
It depends. In most cases, landlords don’t report unpaid rent or partial payments directly to credit bureaus.
To report unpaid rent, a landlord needs to become a member of credit bureaus and have a certain number of accounts to report unpaid rent. Therefore, only landlords with many properties can afford or qualify for this option. 
However, if you are eventually evicted in court, and the landlord wins a judgment, a legal order that gives debt collectors strong rights, that will appear on your credit report. 
A judgment is part of the recipe that leads to a lower credit score.
That’s why it’s so important, long before you get to the eviction stage, that you talk to your landlord.  
If the landlord is unwilling to work something out with you, feel free to reach out to us for more help. 

Photo by Tierra Mallorca on Unsplash

This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.
Patty Lamberti

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