In case you weren’t aware of the new COVID-19 omnibus bill passed by the Council of the District of Columbia, we’ve got an interesting update concerning COVID-19 legislation that property owners with Washington DC rentals need to take notice of.
Effective as of May 20th and current at the time of this writing, the DC Council unanimously passed what seems to serve as a conglomerate of prior omnibus emergency measures for COVID-19.
This “mega bill” unites language from former bills passed on March 17th, April 7th, April 21st, and May 5th into one, effective body—with an extended renewal date. Dates that were originally set to expire in prior bills will now remain in effect for an additional 90 days as soon as Mayor Muriel Bowser signs the bill. It’s important to understand the coverage that this new piece of emergency legislation provides renters—as well as where you stand as a landlord. Here are some updates that you should be aware of regarding your Washington DC rentals:
- The DC Council has confirmed that landlords of five or fewer units are now required by this legislation to negotiate payment plans with their renters.
- Utility providers will now be required to offer payment plans to their customers across DC.
- The 90-day expiration clock built into the former bills will restart if signed by the mayor—effectively enforcing this legislation for an additional 90 day period.
With this news in mind for your Washington DC rentals, we recommend as your ally in property management that you keep a very close eye on how things are evolving to protect yourself, your renters, and your properties.
That said, you have an opportunity as a landlord to get ahead of this now by drafting how you plan to approach payment plans with your renters if you haven’t yet done so! Thankfully, you don’t have to do this alone: at Renters Warehouse DC/NOVA, we’ve got the insight you need to develop effective payment plans.
A word of caution: This blog post does not act as a substitute for legal counsel. When in doubt, consult with your trusted attorney or your DC property management provider for real-time assistance!
Even With a Payment Plan, the Rent Is Still Due
As Professional Landlords that serve our clients in the DC area, we understand, to some degree, the move that the DC Council is making to protect renters. COVID-19 has hit our community exceptionally hard—and many of our neighbors are relying on provisions like these to keep a roof over their heads. However, we also understand how deeply the property owners we serve have been affected.
Despite popular belief, many property owners rely completely on the income they earn from their Washington DC rentals to provide for themselves and their families. While many property owners would agree that living in a mansion and owning a Tesla would be an ideal outcome of owning investment homes, that is simply not the reality for many landlords! Just slightly under half of all property owners who offer rental housing in the United States are what you would consider small-scale, “mom-and-pop” landlords—and their financial picture is often comparable to that of most renters.
For this reason, we know that the rent still needs to be paid—as much as can be paid—to manage the costs of operating safe rental housing and making payments on the properties that they own. Even as property owners across the country consider property tax strikes to make their needs heard, they know that eventually, the city will come to collect.
We understand that so many right now are struggling—and so a compassionate approach to developing your payment plans during this time is essential. However, we also acknowledge that when landlords are unable to make payments on their Washington DC rentals, everyone loses. Not only are you at risk of losing your properties, but this also puts your renters at risk of having no home to shelter in! To protect everyone, the rent is still due.
Work With Your Renters to Develop a Payment Plan
Even though payment plan guidelines are being mobilized and enforced under current legislation, this is an opportunity to exercise your empathy. Ultimately, receiving some form of payment under the new legislation is better than none!
- Ask your renters how much they can afford to put towards their payments now and consider this number stacked against what you can afford.
- The balance that you achieve between your needs and those of your renters in your payment plans should still be enough to help you meet your expenses and stave off delinquency.
- This is especially crucial if your mortgage has not been sheltered under the provisions offered by the CARES Act or you have not been provided access to the mortgage protections enacted by the DC Council for property owners in their COVID-19 Supplemental Act passed on April 21st.
It’s important to note that under the former omnibus bills passed by the DC Council, you are also not allowed to impose late fees or demand lump-sum payments from your renters as a part of your payment plans. Given that the language and expectations here can get convoluted quickly, we recommend that any payment plan you do create be thoroughly vetted by a DC property management partner or your attorney. The legislation changes about every two weeks with new provisions, so it’s crucial that you keep an eye on it and protect yourself moving forward.
Let the Professionals at Renters Warehouse Be Your Guide!
At Renters Warehouse DC/NOVA, we’re committed to the property owners and residents we serve across the DC and Northern Virginia area. We’ve been keeping a close eye on these developments, and we’re here to support you in your efforts to stay afloat.
You don’t have to attempt to navigate payment plans on your own! Start by looking at our Collecting Rent in a Crisis Handbook as a starting guide, and then turn to our expert Rent Estate™ Advisors for more information on how to safely craft the right payment plans for your Washington DC rentals!