The effects of the current pandemic on the U.S. economy continues to show ripple effects. One area in particular adds an extra layer of stress: the prospect of finding a way to pay rent when many businesses are shuttering.
While cities like Los Angeles have passed eviction moratoriums, it's hard to know whether landlords will honor it or if asking for rent deferment could prompt pushback (or worse) from management.
To find out more, we talked to a few people to find out they approaching asking for a rent deferment for the month of April.
Location: Pasadena, California
Arts administrator and fundraising consultant, 30 years old
We've lived at our place in Pasadena for four years now. My relationship with my landlord is very cordial and informal. He has always fixed issues within a week of asking verbally. He lives on the property in a two bedroom house. They are immigrants from Mexico. I asked him in person if it would be possible to defer payment until later in the month.
He said we could defer for two weeks or more if needed. He let us know that he has mortgage payments and is trying to avoid late fees from his lender. I know his family relies heavily on our payment so we have reached out to family to help meet the need and I am using my savings from my last job's severance package to meet the need. We settled on changing our rent due date to the 15th.
Location: Seattle, Washington
Retail merchandising, 33 years old
My fiancé and I have been in our apartment for slightly over a year and a half after having taken over the lease from a friend. Our landlord usually really friendly and understanding whenever there are issues.
I actually got an email last week from the management company saying that anyone experiencing financial difficulties due to COVID-19 was welcome to email them, and that they would evaluate on a case-by-case basis. This past Monday, I learned that my salary was being cut by 20% going forward, so I responded to that email asking what our options were. They asked for a letter of proof from my company, and we eventually decided that the best solution (short of the city-wide rent freeze that our city council is trying to get passed) was for us to pay 50% of our monthly rent on the 1st, and then the other 50% on the 15th, since they're not charging any late fees.
Propmaster, film industry, 30 years old
Location: Mar Vista, California
Our management company is bigger, but has specific people reserved to handle our building. They are always super responsive and fix problems super quickly. They are patient if I'm a few days late on rent, waiting for deposits, etc. We usually contact each other through email.
I reached out to them a few days before the end of the month to let them know that with everything that was happening, I had to reserve the money I had for food and communication, so I wouldn't be able to come up with rent for now. I also told them that I was still waiting to see what my income would look like for the next few months. Their resolution was that they understood and would abide by all the government rules, so no penalties for late payments; at the time it was 6 months to pay back, and it is now 12. (Editor's note: Mellanie is referring to the Los Angeles eviction moratorium__.)
Location: San Diego, California
College educator and food courier, 31 years old
My wife and I have lived in our apartment just over a year. Our relationship with our property management is friendly, but distant. They respond if we need them yet it has taken them over a month to find a solution to some black mold in our apartment and we are still waiting. They once waived my late fee for rent and that was unexpected. We communicate, usually, only over email but I do have a phone number as well. About two weeks ago, I sent a letter to my property manager asking them to waive or reduce our rent for April. I had all the tenants on our property sign it.
They returned with a very cold email that only included a link to a resource they knew of, as well as a quote from that page. They did this a couple times. Ultimately, my wife wrote a very straightforward email back; they responded with a more human, friendly email saying they would discuss with us individually if we had problems paying rent. I sent out an email on the 1st saying I could pay half on the 10th and they were okay with it, no pushback at all.
Location: Los Angeles, California
Writer, 42 years old
I've lived in a two-bedroom house for 10 years (it was cheap when I moved in, now it's more than a mortgage but cheaper than moving because it's still below market). I have a personal relationship with my landlord because I've been a good tenant and send them homemade food and baked goods sometimes as a thank you for letting me live here so long. They are kind and have always been responsive, but they're an elderly retired couple so I like to show my appreciation to them when I can. If I didn't have this dynamic I think I would be in a dire situation like so many millions of others.
I was terrified to reach out and had anxiety attacks about it, practicing what I would say and what I would ask for. They're retired so they partially rely on my rent to pay their cost of living. During the first week of losing all of my work, I was despondent, but I eventually gathered myself and called them. My landlord's wife Linda asked me if I was okay, and then, before I could tell her about my situation, she said "Look. We are all in this together. We are here for you and don't want you to leave. You can pay us whatever you can and pay us back in increments as we see how things pick back up."
I burst into tears. I've never been so grateful or felt so lucky in my life but then immediately felt guilty because I know how rare and lucky my situation is. All I've been able to think about aside from my family is what people in real poverty, the homeless, and the incarcerated and their families are going through. I'm reading stories about compassionate landlords and they are quite literally being local heroes and saving lives right now. Right now is when human kindness is a tool and a superpower we can all try to use for good.