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Montgomery County MD Landlords Facing Challenges Amid COVID-19

Both renters and landlords are feeling the impact of businesses shutting down and many Americans losing their jobs. While Montgomery County continues to see one of the highest infection rates in the state of Maryland, landlords are facing challenges amid COVID-19. Tenants are threatening rent strikes around the country, however, this is only one of the challenges landlords are facing.

landlord challenges amid COVID-19Rent Payments

Rent payments are a primary concern for all landlords!  A record-high amount of people are unemployed, furloughed, and not able to find a new position quickly. As we mentioned early, tenants are rent striking. Not only are many without stable income right now, but home all day with higher utility use and increased wear and tear on the home.

How do you overcome this? Follow the laws, allow for flexibility, but encourage those who can pay to absolutely do so. Keep up on any new resources for rent assistance to pass along to tenants as well. Doing so not only encourages payment but is also a nice gesture to help the tenant in a hard time. The CARES Act, for example, allows Montgomery County residents (and residents throughout the state) to apply for unemployment even if they wouldn’t typically qualify, they just have to prove they are struggling financially due to the pandemic. Also, be sure to assure them that they won’t be evicted due to missed payments. While the governor has halted evictions amid COVID-19,  residents will have 120-days after the eviction laws are back in place to catch up on payments.

Vacancy

Due to the current social distancing and stay-at-home mandates, it can be difficult to find prospective renters. Many companies have eliminated showings of occupied properties and limited tours for vacant properties. Other property management companies and landlords have moved to virtual tours or self-guided tours to protect their employees and prospective tenants.

In addition to limited prospects and tours, many landlords are experiencing delayed and canceled move-ins, as more renters are losing income. Renters are also experiencing challenges in finding movers and delays in utility services.

Managing Vendors 

As a landlord, you probably have cleaning vendors, out-source maintenance as needed, and use a variety of vendors to suit resident’s needs. Some vendors have closed while those open are experiencing a higher volume of calls with limited staff. Keep in mind this pandemic isn’t just impacting your life, but those vendors as well (especially small businesses).

As a landlord right now, you should be understanding if vendors are closed and also be prepared to find one that is open if an emergency arises. The excellent news is HVAC, plumbing, and maintenance services/vendors are considered essential and therefore remain open. Also, be clear with tenants that there will be delays in non-emergency maintenance issues until after the pandemic passes. These delays are for both their safety and the safety of maintenance staff.

Employee Safety 

Make employee safety a number one priority right now! The treatment of employees during this crisis is a significant reflection on you as a landlord or property manager. The leasing staff and property managers can work from home (for the most part). Encourage prospects to do a virtual tour or facetime tour as opposed to in person. If they insist on seeing the unit in person, have a staff member let them in for a self-tour. This way, the prospect is happy, and the staff member is practicing social distance and is safe.

Expiring Leases

Do you have leases coming to an end?  Lease expirations are another landlord challenge amid COVD-19. That is frustrating right now for both the tenant and landlord. Move-ins and move-outs put staff and the tenant at risk right now. Besides, if a lease ends and the tenant moves out, the unit may be more likely to sit vacant at the moment. No worries though, this crisis can be averted! Right now is a great tune to encourage renewals, and tenants are more likely to stay as well. However, if the tenant is considering not renewing, try to convince them otherwise. Offering renewal incentives such as free cleaning and subtle upgrades to the property are a fantastic way to keep the tenant.

Multiple-Family Buildings 

Multi-family buildings are at high-risk right now. Having a large number of people in one building at the same time touching elevator buttons, railings, and common areas is dangerous at the moment. As previously mentioned, close down amenities for the safety of the staff and tenants. Also, consider putting hand sanitizer stations in the lobby and elevator areas. These individuals will be in close quarters with each other for the near future, don’t add more individuals to the mix by keeping front-desk staff on site. Leave a sign at the front desk and/or leasing office to call or email with questions or concerns.

Bay Property Management Group’s Response to COVID-19

Bay Property Management Group has changed policies for the time being to encourage the safety of residents and staff and also work with those that can’t afford rent at the moment. The following guidelines are subject to change per state and federal mandates:

  • BMG is considered an essential business and will remain in operation
  • All BMG offices are currently closed to the outside including owners and tenants
  • Office personnel are all working remotely with full access to service clients via phone and email and are available during normal business hours.
  • Employees who are unable to work remotely have been briefed on proper sanitation and social distancing for their safety and the safety of our tenants
  • Staff members who are sick or have sick family members have been directed to self-quarantine for 14 days.
  • We encourage our tenants to practice social distancing to help limit the spread of COVID-19
  • Rent Payments – tenants have full access to their cloud-based tenant portal to make online payments
  • Maintenance –
    • All routine inspections have been put on hold until further notice
    • We are asking that tenants hold off on non-emergency maintenance requests
    • Emergency related maintenance issues will be handled as such and we have staff prepared to respond immediately
  • Leasing & Marketing –
    • Vacant units – prospective tenants have the option for self-guided tours or a video tour sent via email
    • Occupied units – where possible, we are providing video tours for prospective tenants as we are not offering in-person tours of occupied units
    • Agent are regularly responding to leads and providing weekly updates to our owners
    • Our current rental listings can be found on our website

If you’re a landlord facing challenges amid COVID-19, consider hiring a Montgomery County property management company to assist with getting through these tough times.