COVID-19 FAQ for Investors
Are all evictions banned?
The short answer is no.
On Wednesday (March 18), President Donald Trump announced a new measure to protect tenants and homeowners, suspending all eviction and foreclosure action for properties owned by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD has asked for this to apply to Section 8 recipients, but Congress would have to pass that measure.
On March 25th, to keep renters in multifamily properties in their home and to support multifamily property owners during the coronavirus national emergency, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is announcing that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) will offer multifamily property owners mortgage forbearance with the condition that they suspend all evictions for renters unable to pay rent due to the impact of coronavirus. The eviction suspensions are in place for the entire duration of time that a property owner remains in forbearance. The forbearance is available to all multifamily properties with an Enterprise-backed performing multifamily mortgage negatively affected by the coronavirus national emergency.
Evictions have not been banned in all states, but they have been “stayed” for a time in several states as of this writing on March 25th. Please see this link for a list of states currently making changes to their eviction procedures: https://www.fool.com/millionacres/real-estate-market/articles/cities-and-states-that-have-paused-evictions-due-to-covid-19/ (National REIA does not endorse this site, and its information. We also are not liable if the site is not updated on a timely basis or if the information is not correct. We are making this resource available as information only.)
The concern accompanying the federal ban is that local judges will take this as a directive of sorts and follow suit, not permitting evictions in the area for some limited amount of time.
Discussion amongst the group was the consequence of evicting someone during the height of the crisis, specifically if the eviction is COVID related. Two opinions were presented. Some owners are being pro-active to reach out to residents to ask them to contact the management if they were concerned about being able to meet rent obligations. Both the NAA statement and the sample email correspondence are available on the NATIONAL REIA website.
Others were adopting a policy to wait until the resident contacts them to work out a solution and possible payment plan. Many plan to point their residents to the many resources available for those out of work. These resources are also available on the NATIONAL REIA website.
Most recommendations from those on the call were to continue to file evictions, specifically non-COVID evictions so that if courts close when they re-open, your case will be first in the queue.
Can the Association provide “guidance” documents on policies that owners and managers can follow for a variety of issues?
If the Association sets the “guidance,” it could set a precedent used to measure the actions of all during this crisis. Everyone would need to follow it. As each company should have their own attorneys for specific legal questions, we are trying to make suggestions that are reflective of most government’s standards.
Late Fees and Payment Plans:
Members need to work with your local attorneys to develop policies and documents work you’re your residents. You can find sample general communications for your residents on our Eviction Bans page.
General guidance is to have the following documents drafted by your attorney for use during this time:
- Notice of Temporary Waiver of Late Fees
- Allows operators to waive late fees incurred by residents who, as a result of COVID-19, are experiencing loss of wages, unemployment, or medical expenses.
- Payment Plan Agreement (COVID-19 Pandemic)
- Allows a resident who, as a result of COVID-19, is experiencing loss of wages, unemployment, or medical expenses to pay rent and other sums at a later date.
Are we to keep operations running and employees working during the time for non-essential businesses to close?
Housing is generally considered an essential business. Certainly, maintenance dealing with health and safety issues is essential.
The delay of non-essential maintenance should follow the guidelines from the CDC.
You can find guidance here https://www.cisa.gov/publication/guidance-essential-critical-infrastructure-workforce.
As some pest control issues will include roach and bed bug treatment, it may fall under a health issue. Check with your local health department, but if both the resident and vendor are willing moving forward, be sure to follow social distancing and CDC guidelines.
As stated above, non-essential maintenance needs to be delayed until the CDC changes their guidelines. Stay updated on these changes by visiting the CDC site or at https://www.National REIA.org/coronavirus-guidelines.html.
You may want to issue a specific statement to residents informing them of your policies during the COVID crisis. You may also want to develop an “Essential Maintenance” Work Order Request form, outlining general considerations of what you believe to be essential and allowing them to then submit the work order request for review.
Allowing Vendors onto properties during COVID-19
Limiting vendor access to the property is prudent. Those who provide essential services relating to health and safety issues will obviously need to be accommodated.
Property owners and landlords should stay in constant contact with vendors who provide building services, including maintenance, sanitation, and security. Ask vendor companies about their disease management measures and their plans and ability to provide services in the event of personnel shortages. You will also want to ask for their statement of how they are following CDC guidelines while providing their services.
Working with your Maintenance Employees
Some members have asked if they should ask their maintenance technicians if they are high risk so they can remove them from work order duties in units. Under several federal and state laws, this would be a violation of privacy and possibly, depending upon how approached, violate HIPAA laws.
You should, however, have an open-door policy for workers to feel comfortable talking with you about their concerns and any health issues they have that may make them more susceptible.
Closing Amenties and Services on Property
Under most government directives, gyms of any kind have been closed. CDC guidelines limiting no more than 10 people in an area, and requiring social distancing would also mean closing most club houses, coffee bars, and the like.
Laundry rooms, as they could be considered a service to protect health, should remain open. However, consider signage explaining social distancing and limiting the area to no more than 10 people at one time.