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How to talk to your landlord about rent if coronavirus closures have affected your paycheck

Katherine Khashimova Long, The Seattle Times on

Published in Home and Consumer News

For many out-of-work Americans, the first of the month looms larger now than it did just four short weeks ago.

Even if your landlord has announced rent cuts or is helping you cover the rent due, you may be wondering just what to do on the first of the month.

You're not alone. Two weeks ago, a record 3.28 million Americans filed unemployment claims, and the figures for last week are expected to be even higher.

That number likely understates, by far, the number of people who have lost income as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

It's hard to pin down just how many tenants won't be able to make rent in April and May. What's certain is that "we're going to get so many people who aren't used to being in this situation navigating this for the first time," said Edmund Witter, senior managing attorney at the King County (Wash.) Bar Association's Housing Justice Project. "There's going to be a lot of economic uncertainty in a lot of people's lives."

Landlords anticipate that in some buildings primarily housing hourly wage-earners, as many as 50% of tenants may be unable to pay some or all of their rent.


"They never taught this scenario in any property management classes," said Darren Reynolds, the property management director for Pilot Northwest, which owns and manages properties in the Seattle area.

The firm, like many across the state, has asked tenants to reach out if they expected not to be able to meet rent in the coming months. It's offering temporary rent reductions and payment plans to some tenants whose income has been affected by the virus.

Landlords are free to decide for themselves how much rent relief to offer tenants -- or whether to offer it at all. Many are examining tenant requests for rent cuts or payment plans on a case-by-case basis. What you're able to negotiate with them will determine how much back rent piles up before the end of the eviction moratorium.

If you can't make your rent, here's how to start talking to your landlord.


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