Whose Job Is It?
The pandemic continues its months-long assault on residential rent payments. Landlords are financially burdened when rents are in arrears … and tenants endure increased stress at being late, plus the threat of eviction.
Read on to learn how focusing on the “win” delivers ½ million to a million dollars cash rewards.
Here in Virginia, two regulatory events have addressed both landlord and tenant risks. One is the Rent & Mortgage Relief Program (RMRP) … the second is the eviction moratorium.
Of the two, the eviction issue is the most straightforward requiring no immediate action on the part of either residential landlords or renters. To protect the public health and slow the spread of COVID-19, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued an order that protects some residential tenants who have fallen behind on rent from being evicted until 2021.
The RMRP presents the potential of rent relief for tenants and the prospect of continued rent revenue to landlords. That said, the road to realize these objectives has proven not to be a linear journey for either party. So, let’s take a look at the speedbumps as well as the solutions.
RMRP – A Brief History
Governor Northam signed the RMRP into law in July of this year. The program is designed to support and ensure housing stability across the commonwealth during the coronavirus pandemic. For landlords and tenants that qualify, financial assistance is available for rent or mortgage payments past due beginning April 1, 2020.
The original allocation of funds for the program was $50 million. Subsequently, that amount was increased by an additional $12 million to $62 million.
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”.
In its initial rollout, landlords and tenants seeking assistance were required to provide the required documentation to Virginia Housing. The application vehicle for relief is … unsurprisingly, given government propensity for forms and detail … a six-page document requesting proof of income and other evidence of the landlord-tenant relationship.
Ninety days after the inception of RMRP, only about $7.2 million in relief funds had been distributed – less than 12 percent of the available financial resources.
Why such a dismal response to non-recourse money? You guessed it … the six-page application. Tenants who became aware of the program were intimidated by the information and documentation needed to qualify for help. So, limited to no action was initiated by renters.
This unintended consequence was acknowledged in October and triggered an important change to the RMRP. The amended rules now permit Virginia landlords to 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.
Given the authorization for landlords to assist tenants to seek financial relief, your and my expectation would likely be a major upswing in applications for RMRP benefits. While there has been some, it has not been a landslide event. Why? Perhaps there are two explanations. First, many – maybe most – landlords are unaware of this revised provision. Second, many of those “in-the-know” are taking a finger-pointing position that it’s the tenants’ responsibility, not theirs. In short, a demonstrated unwillingness to be proactive and address the problem.
An example of landlord finger-pointing: The following presents the essential facts of a real-life landlord/tenant encounter.
The tenants have occupied a single-family rental property for nearly 4 years. Rent has been scrupulously paid on time and the property has been well-cared-for inside and out. Then COVID-19 arrived on the scene in Virginia.
The renters’ livelihood is dependent on the success of a family-owned business. Regrettably, their business is highly dependent on clientele who are now severely restricted to patronize their services. Result: Virtually no current income.
Additionally, this is an immigrant family with an admirable work-ethic. However, they are hampered by limited English language skills and knowledge of available sources of assistance - read RMRP.
That said, the family has been diligent in creating a rainy-day fund to meet unforeseen financial tragedies. So, they contacted their landlord volunteering they would make the next two months’ rent payments … but sought to work out longer term arrangements to avoid having to vacate the home and move in with relatives.
The landlord’s response … “That’s your problem, not mine. Pay your rent on time or be prepared to move.”
Clearly, this landlord has no clue that the problem is the problem … not the people!
KRS Holdings Approach to The Problem
Focusing on the “win” delivers half-million to a million dollars cash rewards.
KRS Holdings is both a professional property management firm, as well as a fellow residential rental investor. That means we face the same challenges in dealing with the ravages of the pandemic for our clients as well as our investment portfolio.
Our answer to the question, “Whose job is it?” is … who cares who does the work, if everybody wins! If nobody does the work, everybody loses!
So, to retain quality renters in these days of rent-paying difficulties … be proactive and help! Without a doubt, this is a time for mutually supportive efforts until the return to tenant/landlord normalcy.
The preparatory step to being proactive was to become certified to assist tenants in seeking RMRP assistance. That’s an investment of two weeks to complete the qualification process.
While awaiting certification approval from Virginia Housing, we initiated audits to identify those tenants of our clients and our own who are 30 days or more in arrears. That is our target audience to assist in benefitting from the financial relief offered through the RMRP.
We assign a Team to contact the tenant, explain the potential for relief from the financial burden of past rents due and protection from the threat of eviction. Then, in a collaborative effort, our Team works with the tenant to complete the dreaded six-page application.
So far, we have completed or have in process about 200 tenant applications. Approvals are being granted with rent relief as the prize. Lesson: Solve the problem and the people win … tenants and landlords!
There’s no payoff in finger-pointing and playing the blame-game as to who is responsible to seek assistance during this perilous health and economic crisis. Joining together, landlords can exercise leadership in helping tenants navigate the bureaucratic shoals to weather the next few months … at which time we hope for a return to normalcy in tenant/landlord relations.
KRS Holdings efforts will result in capturing $500,000 to $1,000,000 in RMRP relief funds by year end. The beneficiaries … our clients and their tenants along with our tenants and KRS Holdings. Not a bad payoff, both financially and emotionally for all of us.