How to Talk to Your Landlord About COVID-19

Like many Americans, you may have either fallen behind on your rent or are at risk for doing so in the near future. While evictions are barred right now, you may be in danger once the moratorium expires. However, you are not as much at your landlord's mercy as you think. You may be able to either negotiate with your landlord or strike a deal with them to be able to stay.

Your landlord may need you more than you think. The balance of power may not be entirely skewed in their favor. They may still want to keep you as a tenant because evicting you may end up costing them dearly. It will take some time for them to get a court date for eviction. Their ability to collect the arrears would also largely go away if they send you packing. Further, they may want to stick with a tenant that they know as opposed to starting anew with someone else. Finally, the landlord may think that they will have some difficulty in renting the residence out to a new tenant when unemployment is over 20% and economic times are tough.

Be Honest With Your Landlord

The thing that may frustrate your landlord the most is if they feel that you are trying to pull the wool over their eyes. We have heard of people giving a variety of excuses for not being able to pay their rent on time. Until the check is in the landlord's bank account, an excuse does not mean much of anything to them.

It is best to have an honest conversation with your landlord about what you are facing. This makes them understand that you are not simply neglecting your obligation to pay the rent. Since they cannot move to evict you during the moratorium, they may appreciate someone who is open with them and communicates about the situation.

Remember that there may come a time when you may need the landlord's goodwill. They will be able to make evictions at some point, and you want to start a dialogue now because they may appreciate it later when they have the power to do something about late rent.

Make a Reasonable Offer of Rent

If you cannot afford your full rent, see how much of the payment you are able to make. Try to negotiate with your landlord to see if they will take something less than the full amount in satisfaction of your rent obligations.

Try to make a reasonable offer. For example, if your rent is $1000 per month and you offer $100, chances are that the landlord may find that insulting.

If you do negotiate something with your landlord, make sure that you have it in writing that it satisfies your rent obligation. You do not want to make a partial payment and then have the landlord move to evict you over the balance.

Work Out a Deferred Payment Plan

Even if the landlord is unwilling to temporarily cut the rent payment, they may be amenable to working with you on the time that you have to make the payment. You may be allowed to make up the amount that you are behind over several months, easing your financial burden.

Your landlord may appreciate the fact that you are making a full commitment to pay them what they are owed. Remember that you do have some negotiating power because the landlord will also lose financially if there is an eviction. However, make sure not to overplay your hand here.

Be Polite

It is best not to have this conversation in an antagonistic manner. The landlord may appreciate a polite tone and will work with you more if they are not feeling pressured. While your landlord will make their ultimate decision based on their own financial interests, it does not help to try to strike some sort of personal connection in your conversation with them. While you can certainly advance your position to an extent, at a certain point, it is best not to fight.

At the end of the day, renters are not as powerless to negotiate anything with their landlords as they were before the COVID-19 crisis began. Both landlords and renters want to stay put in their current agreements, and the power that landlords have is checked by the economic realities. By asking for some relief, you may be able to stay where you are even if your economic situation is tenuous.

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