We're living through unprecedented times: landlords and tenants alike are struggling to find their footing on ever-shifting ground, and we all have big questions. One of the biggest challenges being faced by many of the landlords contacting us right now is how to collect rent during a crisis. As an expert in NoVA property management, here are some of the questions we're seeing:
- How do I collect rent?
- Do my tenants have to pay rent?
- What do I do if my tenants don't—or can't—pay?
Now more than ever, it's important to treat your tenants with compassion and understanding. In many ways, we're all in the same boat. While we have no choice but to shift our expectations as the world around us changes rapidly, it's also not possible for many property owners to hold out on collecting rent for long. Even in a crisis, we know you still have your own bills to pay.
Follow these tips from a top provider of NoVA property management to make the process of collecting a little easier on everyone involved.
A word of caution: This blog post does not act as a substitute for legal counsel. When in doubt, consult with your trusted attorney or your NoVA property management provider for real-time assistance!
Now is not the time to let bookkeeping fall by the wayside. It's essential to keep careful track of rent owed and collected—perhaps now more than ever. You likely have tenants who want to pay their rent but are unable to due to financial hardship during COVID-19, so be sure to carefully document all transactions. This is especially important if you have tenants with whom you've reached an agreement to pay partial rent, or set up a payment plan of some sort.
Be Compassionate Within Reason
Knowing how to talk to your renters can be a difficult tightrope to walk during the pandemic: you need to collect rent to keep your head above water, but you also understand the difficulties faced by your tenants. As an expert in NoVA property management, we know that no landlord wants to lose good tenants by being too pushy.
This mindset makes it essential to approach your tenants with compassion while making it clear that rent payments will be expected to return to normal after the crisis has ended. It's also important to outline that tenants who have not been financially impacted will be expected to pay rent as usual.
Perhaps most important of all is to keep communication open:
- Start the conversation with reassurance.
- Recognize that these are times of anxiety and uncertainty for all.
- Make it easy for tenants to stay informed—and to contact you about rent if necessary.
Work With Your Renters
While some scammers may take advantage of the "opportunity" presented by the novel Coronavirus pandemic, most people won't. Chances are, the majority of your tenants would prefer to be able to pay rent as usual. However, if they've been impacted by the outbreak (as many of us have), they may not be able to pay rent due to financial hardship.
That being the case, it's best to work with them as much as possible.
- Offer payment solutions: Late rent and partial rent are better than no rent at all. If you have tenants who are willing and able to pay a reduced rent, pay rent in installments, or pay after an extension, it's worth it to work with them. If you have properties in DC as well, this may also be mandatory.
- Point tenants in the right direction: There are a lot of resources available for tenants who are out of work. Here in NoVA, your tenants may be able to take advantage of a wide range of available assistance, which could help them regain their income and be better able to pay their rent.
Evictions Are Only a Last Resort
Evicting a tenant is challenging under the best of circumstances, and it's generally best to avoid it. That being said, evictions in our area have been stayed, and at the time of publication, we're still waiting to see if that stay will be extended further. In any case, if you've been thinking about using the threat of eviction to strong-arm your renters into paying right now, it's important to remember that threats are never the right course.
It's better (and more profitable) to keep an existing tenant than to find a new one—especially if your renters happen to be reliable outside of a crisis scenario. However, your residents need to understand that they're not on a permanent vacation from paying rent. As the world gradually returns to normal, tenants should remember that their responsibility to pay rent will return as well—as will your rights as a landlord.
Your NoVA Property Management Partner Can Help
Perhaps now more than ever, it's helpful to have a dedicated NoVA property management partner working on your behalf. Working with a team of experts who have a deep understanding of the ever-changing legal landscape takes a huge burden off your shoulders. As a landlord, you can rest assured that rent collection, tenant relations, maintenance, and other aspects of managing your property are all being carried out legally and ethically for all your properties.
If you're currently managing your properties solo, we're here to help. If you need guidance on how to approach your renters carefully when it comes time to collect the rent, download your copy of our Collecting Rent in a Crisis Handbook to learn more. We're in this together: if you have any questions, reach out to your Professional Landlords at Renters Warehouse DC/NOVA!