In this issue, I will continue to address pandemic-related challenges faced by Virginia landlords and residential real estate investors. As a fellow landlord and investor, my intent is not to add to the doom and gloom. We are all inundated with the statistics of rent delinquencies, restrictions on evictions and foreclosure limitations … and concerns as to how that affects our decision-making.
Let’s focus on what proactive steps we can take based on what we know now to preserve our investments, maintain positive cash flow and help our renters get through these next few months.
Virginia Evictions … Status, Relief and Other Proactive Moves by Landlords
In its first round of dealing with the tsunami of C-19 induced rent delinquencies, Virginia extended eviction proceedings through September 7, 2020. According to authorities at the time, the intent was for the moratorium to give the state time “to implement its comprehensive rent relief program and to help relieve the public health risk associated with evicting Virginians from their places of residence.”
Within the last week, Gov. Ralph Northam announced changes to the state’s $50 million rent and mortgage relief program. Notably, Virginia landlords now may apply for assistance on behalf of tenants who owe back rent. That means significant streamlining for landlords seeking rent and mortgage relief through the revised state program.
In a news release, Northam said, “Expanding this program will provide much needed relief for landlords and property owners facing financial hardship and help ensure that more Virginia families can remain safely in their homes”.
The major ‘plus’ for landlords is previous rules required tenants who were delinquent in rent payments to apply for relief. Now, landlords can apply for tenant rent relief directly through Virginia Housing. Those who meet the qualifications will be rewarded with payments retroactive to April 1 of this year.
As reported by the Department of Housing and Community Development, as of the first week in September, about 3,600 recipients enjoyed $7.3 million in payments through the program. Additionally, about 1,900 applications or payments are pending.
- Visit the Virginia Housing website and learn the eligibility requirements to apply for The Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program (RMRP). Generally, landlords who are confirmed owners of Virginia rental properties with rental agreements to qualifying tenants may apply. Click here for a summary of eligibility, required documentations and communicating with tenants.
- If you qualify … apply! The due date for applications is November 15.
KRS Holdings has submitted applications for all our qualified property management clients.
What to do if you or your tenants don’t qualify for relief via the RMRP? KRS Holdings creates tailored solutions based on the unique circumstances each of our clients must resolve. The objective always is to mitigate the continued loss of rent receipts and retain quality tenants. You are invited to give us a call to discuss some of the alternatives that have proved to be successful.
Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a temporary halt in residential evictions until the end of this year to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Tenants are required to submit a written declaration to the CDC with a copy to their landlord. Click here for the details.
The significance of this moratorium for landlords are the criminal penalties for non-compliance. Click here for the full text of the Agency Order.
What follows is our summary and understanding of the consequences for evicting a person who has submitted the above declaration, not to be construed as legal advice:
- A fine of no more than $100,000 if the violation does not result in a death or one year in jail, or both, or
- A fine of no more than $250,000 if the violation results in a death or one year in jail, or both
- An organization violating this Order may be subject to a fine of no more than $200,000 per event if the violation does not result in a death, or $500,000 per event if the violation results in a death.
It’s expected that the CDC’s order will be challenged in courts and may be struck down for various reasons. In the absence of the moratorium being overturned, mortgagees proceeding with evictions risk violating the CDC’s order. Stayed tuned for further updates.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has extended the foreclosure and eviction moratorium for homes with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The extension is from the original expiration date at the end of August … now through December 31, 2020. The foreclosure freeze only applies to single-family foreclosures and real estate owned (REO) evictions. REO evictions apply to properties that are acquired by Fannie or Freddie through foreclosure or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure transactions.
For landlords under pressure to meet mortgage obligations in the face of tenant delinquencies, this may be a breath of fresh air … albeit potentially for only a few months.
By extending the foreclosure moratorium, the FHFA seemed to indicate that it is not prepared to open the foreclosure floodgates while the pandemic continues to prevail. It may well be an acknowledgement that the current chaos affecting residential rental landlords and investors is a function of the lockdown of most of the U.S. economy. Does that mean another moratorium extension is likely? Time will tell.
Again, qualifying for the RMRP will help landlords avoid foreclosure by infusing much-needed rental cash flow.
What We Don’t Know That May Affect Our Decision-Making
I began this article with the premise that we must deal with what we know now as the facts affecting us as landlords and residential rental investors. There are any number of items that are up-in-the-air and may not be fully known to us until later this year or the beginning of next.
Some issues to consider … without any attempt to be a prophet as to outcomes.
This is an election year that will tell us who our president will be for the next four years as well as the profile of the two Houses of Congress. Consider the likely outcome for us as residential landlords and investors if:
- Donald Trump is reelected as president.
- Joe Biden is elected our new president.
- In either or both of the above two scenarios, if: both Houses of Congress are Republican; same question if Democrat; similar question if both Houses remain as they are, or in reverse … with Republican majority in House of Representatives and Democrat majority in the Senate
Unemployment continues to trend downward. If that continues, what effect will that have on reductions in rent delinquencies and foreclosures? Will it result in a continuation of economic stimulus by the Congress, or not?
The pandemic … COVID-related deaths and hospitalizations have been steadily declining around the nation for almost four months. Assuming this trend continues, will Virginia lockdowns be enforced much longer? It’s likely an effective vaccine will be announced soon. If so, what will be the time-line for vaccinations and effective control and/or remedy for the coronavirus?
My guess … your crystal ball is as cloudy as mine. So, our best course of action is to deal with what we know today and stay alert to events as they develop. There are too many “moving parts” that we have no control over. Yes, have a plan … albeit one that will be frequently revised as we know more … but certainly not based on speculation of what may happen.
As facts continue to unfold, I’ll be in touch to keep us all abreast of how to best prevail in preserving our investments, maintaining positive cash flow and helping our renters get through these next few months.