Unable to Pay Rent During COVID-19

The rent is due. But so much has changed since last month due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down businesses everywhere. Millions have lost their jobs or taken pay cuts. Because of this there are people who rent their homes and cannot pay their landlords who in turn can’t pay their mortgage. Some local governments have moved to stop evictions and foreclosures for everyone, and there are even some freezing rent and mortgage payments entirely.

If you are a tenant who can’t pay rent because of the stay-at-home order closing your place of employment, most states urge you to act quickly to uphold your rights.

  • Let your landlord know in writing as soon as possible, no later than 7 days after the rent is due. Make sure that it states that you can’t pay the full rent due to reasons related to COVID-19.
  • Get all documentation together that proves that you are unable to pay your rent. This may include notices of a layoff or reduction in hours, your pay stubs, bank statements, and any medical bills. If you can get a signed letter from your employer that explains the situation – even better.

Then, depending on where you live in America:

  • The $2.2 trillion stimulus package includes a moratorium on all evictions from any buildings financed with a federally backed mortgage. (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Department of Housing and Urban Development)
  • If you are not living in one of those federally financed buildings, there are many states that have issued broad moratoriums on evictions that apply to all rental units, with many lasing 30-90 days.
    • A moratorium means that your rent is deferred, and you will end up with back payments due when this emergency is over. There are advocacy groups calling for the cancellation of rent payments during this crisis which would include full or reduced payments and some further aid from the government.
  • In some states, evictions can’t happen because the court isn’t even in session.
  • There are 12 states that have not stopped evictions.

The Bottom Line: Laws vary by state and even making partial rent payments without coming to an agreement with your landlord won’t keep you from being evicted. Get informed of your rights and then reach out to your landlord. Google “tenants rights” in your city/state. Offer documentation as some renters who are still able to pay rent are unfortunately using this crisis to stop paying. Remember you are not alone. Millions of people around the country are in your shoes. For the most part, landlords want to keep you in your home. Whatever you end up agreeing to with them, get it in writing. Most importantly: keep yourself informed and educated.

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Four Things You Can Do Right Now To Get Your Home Ready To Sell

Price: An unrealistic price tag is the top of the list. Most of the time when a home isn’t selling it is because it is overpriced. No matter if the market is a “buyers” or a “sellers”, no one will overpay for a home. A Realtor with experience especially one that knows your neighborhood will help you to evaluate and set the right price. Search the internet to find a Realtor.

Landscaping: The very first thing buyers see when they pull up to your home for sale is your yard – the lawn, the plants, flowerbeds. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. Mow your lawn, remove sticks and leaves, trim your bushes, add some mulch in flower beds and trim trees if needed. Clean the gutters, patch up the driveway and the concrete walkways. If you have a fence, look for where it might need repairs. Add some potted plants.

Exterior: Not only will buyers notice the landscaping, but the outside of your physical home will speak volumes about what the inside looks like. There have been times that buyers cancel going into the home just by judging the outside. Consider updating projects that will make a big impact on the look of the home. Repairs like, roofing, siding and replacing windows. Or simple projects like painting the front door & adding new hardware to it. Rent a pressure washer for the exterior to get rid of dust, grime, and mildew.

Depersonalize: Take the “home” out of your house. Spend time gathering personal items like family photos, memorabilia, personal keepsakes and anything political. You want future buyers to be able to picture themselves in your home. Most of the items in your bathrooms are probably personal, makeup, toothbrushes, bathrobe, etc. The best rule of thumb is to remove everything from your bathroom counters and in bathtubs and showers first. Then put back only a few decorative items like a hand towel, bath salts or candle but no personal care products.

The Bottom Line: Everyone is limited right now on where they can go. The safest place to be is at home. So, if you are planning to put your home on the market there are many things you can do while you are in “lock-down”. If you really think about it, there has never been a better time than now to get projects done at home.

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Use Social Media for Real Estate Especially Now

Right now, during the Covid-19 Pandemic, most of the world is shut in their homes and on the internet. There are people selling their homes, people looking for a new home and some people just killing time while in “lockdown” looking at real estate. All online. Social media is an important tool for Realtors, now, during this crisis, more than ever.

  • Set up your real estate business on business pages for social media accounts on all the most popular platforms: Facebook, Instagram & Twitter. These companies have made it easy.
  • Take a look at the competition. See what other Realtors with big platforms are doing as well as those not as popular. Look for the differences and avoid mistakes and replicate success.
  • If you have had beautiful pictures taken of a home for sale and post them on Facebook and Instagram. Write informative and interesting content to go with the photos. Always remember that these platforms are “social” and the minute you start “selling” you will turn people off. Draw people in with your photos and tell great stories to go with them.
  • Do live stories for Instagram that also share to Facebook from the property. Have some fun and let people “meet” you. The more real you are, the more new “friends” you will find wanting to watch and follow you and eventually some will become clients.
  • Use hashtags on Twitter and Instagram. To be able to find the people you want to reach, you have to learn what is trending. Twitter lists the “trending” hashtags on the home screen of your page. Create your own hashtag and use it consistently on every post. Hashtags are a way of communicating and expanding your business on social media.
  • Go beyond the pictures of the home for sale. Post photos of the neighborhood events, local businesses nearby, school information, other clients closing on their new home, and even testimonials (use a client’s photo, or just a picture of their home).

The Bottom Line: While social media should be used for engagement (socializing), it is also an excellent source for direct lead generation. The report by the National Association of Realtors, says that 47% of real estate businesses note that social media results in the highest quality lead compared to other sources. This is one of the greatest advantages of social media marketing for realtors.

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Get Your Home Ready to Sell While You are “Social Distancing”

Scientists, doctors, and public health experts are urging—begging—everyone to practice “social distancing” or deliberately creating space from other human bodies. No bars, no gyms, no restaurants, no concerts, no parties. It’s an effective way of slowing the spread of Covid-19. This is the perfect opportunity to take the time to get your house ready to sell this Spring.

Research your local housing market

Get on the internet with your coffee and start doing research on the value of your home. You can find information on Realtor.com and a local Realtor can direct you to other websites that can help. Look at the comparable sales in your neighborhood. Check on the square footage, special features and locations of the comps. How do they compare to your home? Browse online listings.

Find a listing agent

If you don’t have a Realtor that you want to use, do the research online to find the best one in your area. Ask friends and neighbors, review websites, do a search on social media and see who is using it and how they are using it.

Declutter & Depersonalize

The more personal your space, the harder it is for buyers to imagine themselves living in your home. A rule of thumb is to get rid of a third of your “stuff”. What a time to go through closets and get make piles of clothes you don’t wear to give away. How about your kitchen cabinets? When was the last time you organized them? Move room to room, turn on the music and have some fun.

Do a Deep Cleaning

  • Steam Cleaning the Carpets –Not as easy if you don’t own your own steam cleaner. If you do, now is a great time to do it.
  • Remove Pet Smells – Pet owners don’t always smell pet odors because they’re so used to them, but others will. Steam cleaning the carpets will remove a lot of odors. Consider cleaning the upholstery as well.
  • Windows – Clean the windows inside and out.
  • Garbage cans – Clean them thoroughly with bleach to remove any odors.
  • The oven and stovetop – Ovens are a common source of unpleasant odors.
  • The refrigerator – Empty it. Clean it thoroughly. Throw away any old foods.
  • The dishwasher – Thoroughly clean and sanitize the inside of the dishwasher.
  • Bathroom grout – Mold stinks. Grout often gets moldy. Clean the grout.
  • The shower stall and curtain – Bleach and elbow grease and put your shower curtain in the washing machine.
  • The basement – Do a wall-to-wall cleaning, remove mold, and seal any cracks.
  • Air Ducts – Grab your vacuum and the hose extension and suck out the dirt and dust.

Work on the Curb Appeal

We know that the way our home looks from the outside, the curb appeal, is a big part of selling the home. Buyers driving up can be turned off just by the way the exterior of your home looks. Often times, they won’t even go into the home.

Focus on the Front Door and Porch – You never get a second chance to make a first impression. The porch should be clean and freshly painted. There shouldn’t be any loose boards, no areas of rot, and no creaky steps. The front door should be attractive, substantial, and well-framed.

Add Fresh Mulch and Flowers – Your house may be impeccably maintained, but if the rest of the property is a mess, it won’t matter. Dead flowers and pale, lifeless mulch are non-starters when it comes to curb appeal.

Always Have a Fresh-Cut Lawn – Making sure the lawn is tidy and free of bare spots is crucial. It provides the entire property a put-together aura. Not only that, but it also endows the air surrounding the home with an appealing scent.

Cut Back Trees and Shrubs – Trees and shrubs are great, but they shouldn’t have a wild appearance, especially if the rest of the house is impeccably maintained. If you can’t do it yourself, hire a professional landscaper to cut back the trees and shrubs.

The Bottom Line: Treat this situation of being homebound as a gift. Take advantage of free time and get your home in order to put on the market.

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Navigating Your Business Through Coronavirus Fears

Employers, Human Resources and in-house counsel are grappling with how to respond to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). This provides employers with guidance on how to address the impact of the virus on the workplace and what employers can and cannot do. This is a rapidly developing issue, and this guidance should be reconsidered and/or modified as circumstances change.

What To Do Now

Do Not Panic – Employees and employers are rightly concerned about this issue. However, do not panic. Not everyone who has flu-like symptoms has the virus and you should not send everyone home who is sick or has the flu. An overreactive response by an employer could spark unnecessary panic in the workplace, disrupting operations.

Have a preparedness plan – Create (or review) an operations plan to be prepared and involve all necessary stakeholders (i.e., HR, operations, facility/maintenance, legal, etc.). At a minimum, the plan should:

  • have a process in place of how to address an employee who is suspected of having exposure or symptoms, and determine who will make the decision of sending an employee home or prohibiting the employee from working.
  • contain a communications protocol to notify employees of possible exposure, including who will communicate, the method and where employees can get more information.
  • have a communication strategy to handle press inquiries or customer/client inquiries.
  • address whether to limit business travel or cancel any upcoming conferences or large gatherings (consider phone or video conferences in lieu of in person meetings, even if individuals are in the building).
  • identify how to handle increased employee absences due to illness (or suspected illness), school closings, disruptions in mass transit or employees who refuse to work because they are scared.
  • identify positions that are eligible for work-from-home arrangements on either a temporary or permanent basis.
  • prepare for how the business will continue to operate if there is mass absenteeism, especially the absence of key employees. Is cross-training possible?
  • determine whether furloughs or temporary layoffs are may be necessary in the event of a reduction in business, supply, etc., and how will they be implemented.
  • you are not required to report actual or possible infections to public health officials; however, state and local public health agencies have hotlines to make inquiries or voluntarily disclose infections at work. Have this information handy.
  • OSHA does not require you to take more than reasonable steps to protect employees. You do not have to provide face masks or gloves.
  • determine whether exposure at work or an infection from an employee is reportable to your workers’ compensation carrier.

Be Proactive – Strongly encourage employees to take proactive measures to prevent infection:

  • make hand sanitizer and tissues available.
  • inform employees of the recommendations of health care professionals, such as:
    • washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
    • avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
    • covering your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, but not with your hands. Discard tissues after each use.
  • cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces with recommended products. Work with your building’s facilities department to confirm that they are taking appropriate steps to adequately clean and disinfect frequently touched objects, such as door handles, bathrooms and kitchen areas.

What You Can and Cannot Do

If you believe an employee may have COVID-19, you CAN:

  • ask if the employee has flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, along with a cough or sore throat.
  • “screen” employees who may be at high risk of infection and ask questions that would help determine risk of infection or exposure (i.e., persons who traveled to an area with an outbreak or people who may have been exposed to high risk individuals).
  • separate and send home employees who appear to have flu-like symptoms and have other factors to suggest high risk for infection (i.e., travel or exposure to another person with COVID-19).
  • encourage employees to go to a health care provider to be tested for COVID-19.

If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, you CAN:

  • require the employee to provide medical documentation from a health care provider clearing the employee to return to work.
  • inform employees that there is a risk they have been exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace, but maintain confidentiality as to the person who may have exposed them.
  • discuss possible accommodations with the employee, such as working from home, leave of absence, etc.

If an employee cannot work:

  • consider whether the absence may be covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, especially if the employee is hospitalized or absent for three days or more. Remember, the standard is reasonable notice, so you should send the eligibility and notice of rights and responsibilities if there is a possibility that the FMLA may apply.
  • consider whether any other paid or unpaid leave policies apply, such as sick, vacation/PTO or personal leave (for employees not eligible for FMLA), and whether you will require employees to use paid sick or vacation/PTO.
  • review legal requirements regarding whether exempt employees must be paid their salary. For example, if you require an exempt employee not to work, then they must be paid.

For employers of unionized employees – Be mindful of your collective bargaining agreement provisions on leaves of absence, accommodation for disabilities or medical conditions, furloughs, closure of facilities or departments, and other related provisions before you make any decisions related to the coronavirus. Discuss these issues with union representatives now.


Discriminate – Do not single out employees based on national origin, race, ancestry or citizenship status. Enforce harassment policies where other employees may make comments or jokes about an individual’s national origin, race, ancestry or citizenship status.

  • You cannot prohibit employees from traveling to destinations for non-business reasons, but you may encourage them to check the Centers for Disease Control’s Traveler’s Health Notices before making travel decisions.
  • You can ask employees who have traveled to areas with COVID-19 outbreaks if they have any symptoms, but you cannot require these employees to stay home if they do not have symptoms.

Make disability-related inquiries – You may not make medical inquiries of disabled employees to determine whether they have a compromised immune system and are more susceptible. However, you may inquire why an employee has called off from work.

  • You can ask non-disability-related questions, such as if employees will have trouble working if schools are closed, they need to care for other dependents, or if they are identified as high risk for illness (i.e., pregnancy, persons over 65 years of age, people with respiratory problems).
  • If an employee with a disability voluntarily discloses their disability because they are concerned that they are susceptible, you must engage in the interactive process (determine what if any accommodation is appropriate under the circumstances) and keep this information confidential.

Require employees to take certain actions – You may not require that your employees get a flu shot or require them to submit them to medical testing if they have no symptoms and are not at high risk.

Reliable Sources – There is a lot of misinformation out there and assumptions being made. You should make decisions based on reliable sources and follow recommendations from public health professionals.

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