Being a landlord in the COVID-19 era can be a huge challenge, especially as rules about evictions continue to evolve with the ever-changing situation. For many landlords, it’s back to business as usual, but others are still tending properties located in cities or states that have some form of eviction moratorium in place.
Just because the federal eviction moratorium is over doesn’t mean you don’t need to be careful about how you handle evictions. States like Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Mexico still have very open-ended eviction protections in place for renters, while other states, like Nevada, have extended their eviction protections far into the future.
What do rental eviction moratoriums cover?
The good news for landlords is that eviction moratoriums are designed to have exceptionally limited scope, so your hands aren’t totally bound. Problematic tenants who are constantly throwing loud parties, or breaking stuff, or who are exceptionally grossly negligent can still be evicted, provided that is the actual reason you want to evict them. You can’t claim someone is upsetting the peace just because you want to get a paying tenant into a unit with occupants who still qualify for COVID protections.
But, if you have a tenant who is wrecking the place, you definitely have a legal leg to stand on. You’ll need to make sure that you’ve fully documented the incidents in question, even if it’s an exhausting and ongoing situation. The landlord-tenant balance of your particular state or municipality will heavily influence how much of the burden of proof is on you, but it’s always better to come overprepared.
What about non-paying tenants?
For non-paying tenants who are still protected by eviction moratoriums, you’ve still got some options to recapture your lost income. Contact your local housing authority for more information on programs available in your area that are designed to help bring your tenant current (provided they meet specific criteria). The money funded to these programs is there to help keep people in their homes by removing their debt to their landlords, so don’t be shy about asking for help.
In many areas, both state and municipal programs are available. There are often separate programs for landlords and tenants. You will obviously want to fill out an application for yourself, but you can make the process smoother for your tenants as well. Collect all the application information they need, and give them a punch list so they know what to do and how to accomplish it.
Remember, as renters, they may not have had to ever go through a process this complicated, so the more you can grease the wheels, the more likely you are to recapture your missing rent. It may not be your job to hold their hands through the process, but it will ultimately pay if you do.
The Millionacres bottom line
If you’re a landlord and you have a tenant you’re considering evicting, make sure you understand your legal options and responsibilities in your area. If you own multiple properties across a region or even across a state, the rules may be different for each property, so it will absolutely pay to become familiar with each set of rules.
Sometimes, you simply need to evict a tenant; it’s the not-so-fun part of landlording. However, even in good times, there are strict rules about what you can and cannot do. For example, in most areas, you can’t simply lock out a tenant without notice or empty their belongings onto the lawn. The eviction moratoriums that are still in place aren’t really any different -- they’re just guidelines that describe what is and what isn’t ok.
It will really pay for you to remain informed about programs that are available in your area because they’re not just for your tenants. You, too, can get a bunch of cash to help bridge the gap in your income in areas where these rules still apply. The rules are in place to help stop the spread of COVID -- they’re not there to bankrupt you, so apply for whatever you qualify for and do it today.And if that tenant is still a problem child after the government has helped catch up their rent, well, it’s time to consider your next move. No one wants you to have to keep an excessively noisy or destructive tenant, in any time or place.