Renter’s Guide to Coronavirus

We recognize that this is a constantly evolving situation. This page will be updated with new information as it comes in.

Last updated: May 18, 2020

We know that this is a difficult time for so many Americans. Uncertainty seems to be the only certainty we have right now. At Apartment Guide, employees in our Atlanta and Portland offices are working remotely as so much of the nation is sheltering in place. We’re working remotely and harder than ever to provide the highest-quality services to renters. As an organization, we are optimists and positive thinkers and we hold ourselves to high standards. As we work to help one another within our company, we know that the renters we actually work for have many questions. Many of us are renters ourselves. Every one of us is dedicated to helping every renter live better in homes they love.

Before we dive into this guide, remember that your health should always take priority. Please don’t let financial concerns keep you from taking steps to protect your health. Make sure you’re social distancing and self-quarantining correctly.

What’s happening now

Unfortunately, more Americans are being affected by this crisis around the country each day.

Coronavirus stimulus package

Over the past month, the government has passed several stimulus packages to help American individuals and companies weather the current crisis.

Moratoriums temporarily halting evictions and utility shut offs

Many states, counties and municipalities have put moratoriums in place to protect people who are struggling financially. Some have passed moratoriums on evictions, others on utility shutoffs. As part of the recent legislation, properties with mortgages backed by the government are required to halt evictions for the next 120 days. You should contact your leasing company to determine their status. As of 2015, about 40+% of multifamily units had government-backed mortgages according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Extended and expanded unemployment insurance

States have extended the length of time unemployment benefits are available so check with your state to see if there are changes in your area. Explore this chart from Eviction Lab for up-to-date information about new regulations, from Alabama to Wisconsin.

Check your eligibility and request your payment

The IRS has published a website to help Americans determine their eligibility for their Economic Impact payments. You can request your payment and determine the best method for receiving it at the website below.

A second stimulus check bill passed the House

On Friday, May 15 the House passed a proposed second stimulus package. This bill would provide additional stimulus checks to many Americans. The HEROES act could provide another $1,200 payment for those who are eligible. It would also extend the expanded unemployment payments of $600/wk until January of 2021.

The bill passed from the House to the Senate on Friday, May 15 but there is no guarantee it will pass in the Senate. We will update this page as the HEROES act progresses through Congress.

Paying your rent

We now know that more than 26 million jobs have been lost over the previous few weeks. The question on many people’s minds is how they are going to pay their rent.

We wish we could give you a simple, one-size-fits-all answer but we can’t. The best advice is to follow common sense. Let your landlord know ASAP if you lose your income or are concerned about being able to pay your rent.

The National Multifamily Housing Council released a statement recommending that rental properties suspend evictions for 90 days and work with tenants to develop payment plans when needed.

Please remember that this emergency has not only affected renters.

Large property management companies are also employers. Like all employers, they are doing their best to avoid laying off staff members.

If you rent directly from an individual or small company, they still have to pay the mortgage or risk foreclosure. This crisis is affecting all Americans. Your landlord may have lost their employment as well or may not have the room in their budget to work with you.

Speak with your landlord to see if it’s possible to work out a flexible rent payment solution. Some may be willing to work with you if you have a history of paying your rent on time and being an ideal tenant. If you have a bad track record with your landlord you may be out of luck. Remember, you’re the one asking them for a favor.

DO NOT make promises you can’t keep. Have a realistic plan for how to make this arrangement work before you ask for assistance. Keep in mind that you may be asked to pay an additional fee or interest if deferring rent payments.

Making payment arrangements with your landlord

Before approaching your landlord, get a copy of your lease and read it carefully. Give careful consideration to ALL the terms of your lease, not just the monthly rent. There are any number of relevant clauses and conditions you should be paying attention to:

  • Security deposits
  • First or last month rent
  • Pet deposits
  • When you are required to give notice if you plan to leave
  • Renewing your lease when it ends

Next, gather the following documents where applicable:

  • A letter from your employer (on letterhead) stating that you have been laid off, furloughed or are required to work reduced hours.
  • If self-employed, bring tax returns or other official documentation demonstrating this.

Be ready to sign documentation outlining the terms of your agreement. Things to consider when working out an agreement are:

  • The duration of the agreement
  • When or if the agreement can be extended or ended early. Make sure the reasons for any extension or termination of the agreement are stated explicitly.
  • If any penalty fees or interest will be charged as part of this flexible rent payment agreement. If so, when will they be due?
  • Any terms in your lease that may be affected by this new agreement. Every other term of your lease is still in effect and enforceable in court unless specified otherwise.

Download a sample letter here

Apartment hunting

Learn more about apartment hunting and moving during coronavirus here:

Apartment living

Most apartment communities have sent out proactive communications answering resident questions about safety, cleaning, repairs and community spaces. Check your email or look out for signs posted informing you and your neighbors about new policies and preventative measures taking place in your community. Specifics will vary from community to community. Our responses below are taken from the industry recommendations put out by the National Multifamily Housing Association.

How do I stay safe in the mailroom, elevator, hallways, parking garage, etc?

You’ll want to take similar precautions as you would in public. Wash your hands. Stay 6 feet away from others. Wear a mask if you have one to prevent spreading the virus if you are asymptomatic. Wear gloves if you find it necessary and sanitize things like your mailbox and external doorknob. Learn how to make a DIY face mask here.

Can I still use the gym and other recreational areas in my apartment community?

In accordance with local and federal recommendations, many communities have closed gyms, pools and common spaces to prevent the spread of Covid-19. These measures are meant to protect both residents and building staff.

If these spaces are still open to residents in your community, guidelines clearly state that they should be cleaned regularly with EPA approved sanitizing and disinfecting agents. As a personal protective measure, make sure you are wiping down equipment before use and practicing strict hygiene measures.

Will my apartment community still respond to maintenance requests?

The National Multifamily Housing Association recommends that apartment communities continue to respond to requests when residents need repairs or there are emergency requests. If something essential breaks in your apartment, it’s highly likely that your request will be honored. Routine inspections and preventative maintenance may be suspended as part of quarantining.

This seems like an ideal time to foster a shelter-pet.

For some people, this is indeed an ideal time to foster or adopt a pet. Make sure that you are one of them before volunteering.

Your first move should be to talk to your landlord.

  • Talk to your landlord and get approval in writing to have any pets, whether you own them legally or not.
  • Be prepared to pay for any damage the pet causes in your apartment
  • Reread your lease and do not break it for any reason

If your landlord has indicated their approval in writing and you choose to proceed with fostering or adopting a pet, be considerate to your neighbors. Constant barking is not acceptable in an apartment complex in the best of circumstances. When everyone around you is quarantining in their apartments, it is doubly unacceptable. Don’t be that person.

If you have to take your pet out to use the restroom, follow these guidelines:

  • Pick up after them. That’s a given.
  • Keep your distance from neighbors. Same goes for your dog. Neighbors may be afraid that your dog can spread Covid-19 so don’t expect everyone to be petting your new pup.
  • If there is ANY chance your new dog might be aggressive towards strangers, they don’t belong in community lobbies or dog runs.

Additional resources

At Apartment Guide, we are committed to providing advice to renters every step of the way. We know you have questions during this trying time and are constantly adding new information for renters on the Apartment Guide blog. Here are a few articles you might find helpful: