Some tenants asking for rent help amid crisis

Like many apartment managers, some of Melissa Farias’ tenants are late paying April’s rent amid the economic crisis stemming from federal guidelines aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Across the country, millions of workers have suffered job cuts stemming from state and local orders leading businesses to close to comply with guidelines restricting gathering sizes while promoting social distancing.

Now, many property owners are waiving late fees while offering plans to help tenants pay their rent later in the month.

“Most property owners are waiving late fees, especially for people impacted from the loss of income,” Marcus Phipps, owner of Harlingen Homes, which manages about 50 properties, said Friday.

“We’ll be setting up payment plans to give people time to recover,” Phipps, president of the Harlingen Board of Realtors, said.

At Spring Creek Apartments, Farias said some of her tenants are asking for help in paying their rent.

“So far, the rent is coming in but it’s a little slow with everything going on,” Farias, the apartment complex’s assistant manager, said. “Some are saying they’ll make the payment but they can’t on time because of everything that’s happened. Some are losing their jobs, some are getting hours cut. We’re trying to work with them.”

At Northridge Apartments, Manager Jay Garcia said about 5 percent of his tenants are asking for time to make their rent payments.

“I know a lot of them have reduced hours, but loss of jobs — not as much,” he said.

Dipping into savings

Some tenants are dipping into their savings to pay the rent, said Victoria Delagarza, manager of the Skyline, Los Amigos and Madrid apartment complexes.

“I’m really surprised — I’m having a good turnover,” she said. “People who had their jobs cut are coming through. I had a few who told me they won’t be able to pay on time but will be able to pay. Most of the people are decent and have a good head on their shoulders and have some money saved up. Right now, we are not charging late fees. Everybody now has to work with everybody.”

Waiting to gauge impact

Property owners are waiting until later this week to determine whether more tenants will make their rent payments, said Keith Cox, operations director at Mason & Company, which manages about 600 properties.

“Landlords and management companies all realize there’s going to be some impact,” he said. “We are working with people who have been impacted by the virus.”

Based on standard contracts, the fourth day of each month marks the deadline to make timely rent payments.

“We should find out in the next few days how many people are being impacted,” Cox said.

Cox said the management company is offering payment plans and waived late fees to help tenants who suffered job cuts.

“We want to be compassionate and work with people impacted,” he said. “For those people, we are working with tenants whose unemployment has not come in yet and we’re waiting till they’re able to get their unemployment. If you have been impacted, contact your landlord and see if they can help.”

Meanwhile, Cox warned some tenants who didn’t suffer job cuts might try to “take advantage” of property owners’ offers to help those who lost income amid the economic crisis.

“The tenant is still obligated for rent,” he said. “The owners are relying on the money themselves — so are we to pay salaries.”