Can't pay your rent? Here's what you should do

Communication is key says real estate consultant
Posted at 2:21 PM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-30 00:07:35-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The beginning of May is almost here and many residents are wondering how they will pay their rent.

So, if you can't pay, what are your rights?

LaTasha Arnold with the Palm Beach County Tenants Union said the coronavirus has only compounded existing problems like affordable housing.

"It's put a huge panic on our middle and lower-class citizens. What are they going to do? They were already having a hard time paying rent. Now, they are out of income and a lot of people aren't getting their unemployment (checks)," said Arnold.

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She said they are receiving a lot of calls and emails from people who feel they are being harassed by their landlords.

"(Renters say) landlords are tracking stimulus checks, using the excuse, 'Well, you're going to get money, you're going to get unemployment.' They are charging late fees," said Arnold.

So, what can renters be empowered with and say to an uncompromising landlord?

"Definitely learning your tenants' rights and know that you're not alone. People feel ashamed when they're in this situation. Hard times come and go upon good people, and you shouldn't be ashamed because you can't pay your rent," said Arnold. "There's a community here that can help you. We want to help."

WEB EXTRA: Palm Beach County Tenants Union offers advice to renters

Roger Schalk, a real estate consultant with Florida Management and Consulting Group in Coral Springs, said there are some misconceptions about landlords.

"These people are people. I've been pleasantly surprised. We've worked out agreements with a half a dozen people that have had some difficulty (paying their rent,') said Schalk, whose firm manages rental properties in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

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If you are a tenant having a problem paying your rent, Schalk offers the following advice.

"If their property is professionally managed, my advice would be to absolutely reach out to your property manager. Be honest, be truthful with them. Tell them, where you are, what's going on. What you can do and what you can't do," said Schalk. I'm going to say 99 percent of the time something can be worked out," said Schalk.

Just ignoring the problem can end in an outcome that nobody is happy with, he said.

“The key thing really is communication. We try to establish an open line of communication with the landlord and the tenant. These people are reasonable people,” said Schalk.

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As for homeowners, financial adviser Dave Wentley said there is an option of delaying mortgage payments called forbearance.

“Hopefully that forbearance will at least give us some time to get this thing moving behind us, and then after that, yes, you will have to pay it. That may become an individual thing with your bank, but at least you buy a little time in short term," said Wentley.

Whether you own or rent, experts say if the money is tight, don't be silent. Start communicating with the landlord or the bank and try to work out a solution.