With rent due, millions of Americans cant — or wont — pay
It’s the first of the month — the time when so many start counting their dollars, making sure they have enough to pay rent.
“I’ll be able to make rent next month, but then after that, if unemployment doesn’t kick in, I’m definitely in trouble,” Gabby Namm, an unemployed cook in New York, told ABC News.
More than 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment since mid-March as the novel coronavirus hit the U.S., leaving many filled with anxiety, not knowing when they’ll get another paycheck. That’s sparking rent strikes across the country from New York to Philadelphia to Chicago to Los Angeles.
“The choices that we have right now is we pay rent, and we’re left without any money for food,” Manuel Antonio Rodrigues told ABC News.
Rodrigues lost his job in March. He joined a socially distanced protest in Los Angeles this week, asking the mayor to cancel rent for May.
“So many of us here have had to make that decision whether we’re going to use up a little bit of money that we have on rent or whether we should save it for medicine for food and other essential needs right now,” he said.
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Others, like Alex Mercier, who also lost his job in March, have teamed up with the tenants in their buildings to forgo their rent payments together.
“There are people I’ve been talking to who are sick and need their medicine and putting them in a situation where it’s pay rent or medicine, that’s just ridiculous,” Mercier, who lives in Los Angeles, said.
But renters aren’t the only ones struggling. Landlords have bills to pay too.
“These are my children,” Darryl Marshak, a landlord in Los Angeles, said, talking about his tenants. “I’m still shy on April’s rent on some of them, but I understand, they’re usually great.”
Marshak is a mom-and-pop building owner with six tenants.
“Maybe I got two months total of my mortgage if I have to come up with it myself,” he told ABC News. “Not to mention water, power, sewage, gardener.”
“It’s not a fight with the landlords, it’s a fight with the banks who need to understand that they were bailed out about ten years ago, and now we need a bailout for the working people,” Rodrigues was quick to point out while protesting on the steps of Los Angeles’ City Hall.
Across the country, there are patchwork policies for housing protection, creating widespread confusion. Eight states — Georgia, Arkansas, Idaho, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Oklahoma — currently have not implemented any statewide orders to suspend evictions and foreclosures during the pandemic, according to an analysis by Princeton.
“Lost jobs and lost wages — combined with rents that were unaffordable even before coronavirus — leaves millions of people struggling to figure out how to make rent and scared of being evicted during a public health emergency,” Diane Yentel, the President of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, told ABC News.
“In this moment when our collective health depends on our ability to stay home, it’s never been more obvious that housing is health care. Congress should be doing everything they can to keep people stably housed during and after this public health emergency by implementing a national moratorium on evictions and providing at least $100 billion in rental assistance,” she said.
For many home owners under financial stress, the federal rescue package signed in March, known as the CARES Act, allows up to a year to skip or delay mortgage loan payments. According to Black Knight, a data and analytics firm, 3.4 million homeowners will do just that, skipping payments for the immediate future. But others without mortgages backed by the federal government are left uncovered.
So, what can you do?
For starters, talk to your landlord or lender. Times are hard right now, and many may be willing to negotiate or workout a payment plan.
Also, make sure you know your rights. Eviction laws are different across the country. Make sure you’re familiar with yours. Remember, what you’re told by a landlord or lender is not always what’s factually accurate.