Broken appliances, dripping faucets, and costly utilities are part of being a homeowner. But today’s landlords have fallen on even harder times: operating without billions in back rent that’s owed to them. Paying the bills without receiving the rental income is fallout from the global pandemic—and no one’s immune.
Shad Elia owns apartment units in the Boston area. He says government coronavirus benefits allowed his tenants to keep paying rent at first. But now, residents are falling behind on payments. And Elia needs to make his own payments.
Elia wonders how much longer lenders will cut him slack. “We still have a mortgage. We still have expenses on these properties,” he says. “They can’t expect landlords to provide subsidized [financially supported] housing.”
Some landlords are trying to work with their tenants. They’ve given rent reductions or offered more flexible leasing terms. But the crisis is costly.
“The majority of landlords are struggling and are trying to work with a bad situation,” says Andreanecia M. Morris. She is executive director of a group that pushes for more affordable housing.
Morris works with both landlords and tenants. She fears many landlords will be unable to keep up with the mortgages. They could see their properties taken away by banks. Then those properties could be bought by large corporations, which aren’t as devoted to the neighborhoods and their residents.
Gary Zaremba owns and manages 350 apartment units spread out over 100 buildings in Dayton, Ohio. He’s been working with hard-pressed tenants—many of them hourly workers in restaurants and stores.
Zaremba worries that more restaurants will shut down, putting his tenants out of work. The amount of mortgage on his buildings is small. But he still has to pay property taxes and fix things like broken windows or leaky plumbing.
Pandemic-hit tenants get plenty of public sympathy. But sympathy doesn’t pay the rent.
Event planner Jessica Elizabeth Michelle is afraid of being homeless. Her income evaporated when COVID-19 hit. Aid from the federal government helped her pay rent. But that is gone now. Her landlord has been supportive. But he’s made it clear he has bills to pay too.
“I never had an issue of paying rent up until now. I cry all night long. It’s terrifying,” Michelle says. “I don’t know what to do.”
Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. — Romans 13:7