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What You Need To Know About Tenants Rights During Covid-19

By: Christine Olfus LPM, DC

Principal Partner / Property Manager

Anna Victoria Group, LLC

We received a call from a tenant in early March regarding layoffs due to COVID-19. This call for us signaled what was ahead. At that time, no one was prepared for the rapid arrival and spread of COVID-19 its impact which included school and business closures. One day, life changed for everyone. “Physical distancing” is how we are to move through life in an effort to prevent spreading or acquiring the virus. Practicing physical distancing meant layoffs and unemployment for many and much concern regarding how we would pay bills and most specifically, rent and mortgages.

Maryland’s Governor, Larry Hogan, declared a State of Emergency in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). For this reason, the following was put into effect for Maryland residents:

PROHIBITION ON UTILITY SHUTOFFS: Governor Hogan issued an emergency order that prohibits electric, gas, water, sewage, phone, cable TV, and internet service provider companies from shutting off any residential customer’s service, or charging any residential late fees.

PROHIBITION ON EVICTIONS: Governor Hogan issued an emergency order that prohibits Maryland courts from ordering the eviction of any tenant who can show that their failure to pay rent was the result of COVID-19—for example, because of lost or reduced unemployment, or needing to care for a school-aged child—or because they are diagnosed with, or under investigation for, COVID-19. Late fees will not be applied during this time.

On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law by the Federal Government. Under the CARES Act, there is a 120-day moratorium on filing non-payment of rent cases and charging fees, penalties, or charges related to such nonpayment of rent, for covered properties starting March 27, 2020. The CARES Act does not apply to cases filed before the moratorium took effect or in cases where the eviction is based on other reasons besides nonpayment of rent or other charges.

COVERED PROPERTIES- For purposes of the eviction protections, covered properties are defined to include most federally assisted rental housing programsWhat should you do?

• Apply for Unemployment Benefits

• Contact your Landlord if you are having financial difficulty paying rent on time. If you can’t pay the entire amount each month, pay as much as you can. Once the public health emergency is lifted, you don't want to be faced with any more than two months of rent owed. Make a plan and stick to it as best as you can. If it has to be altered due to changes due to COVID-19, inform the Landlord. You might be asked to provide documentation to support your requests for rent forbearance.

• Utilize unemployment benefits for rent, food, and insurance.

• Contact all utility companies - offer to pay as little as you can. If you can pay nothing, let them know. The prohibition on utility shutoffs will keep everything on; however, it is best to communicate.

Mortgage Relief

Contact your lender or mortgage servicer immediately to find out your options should you experience financial difficulties with making on-time mortgage payments. You can also contact Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. To find out if you have a Fannie-Mae-owned mortgage and access to the Disaster Response Network for those who impacted by COVID-19 visit:

Mortgage Relief During the State of Emergency:

• Foreclosure sales and evictions of borrowers are suspended for 60 days

• Homeowners impacted by this national emergency are eligible for a forbearance plan to reduce or suspend their mortgage payments for up to 12 months

• Credit bureau reporting of past-due payments of borrowers in a forbearance plan as a result of hardships attributable to this national emergency is suspended

• Homeowners in a forbearance plan will not incur late fees

• After forbearance, a servicer must work with the borrower on a permanent plan to help maintain or reduce monthly payment amounts as necessary, including a loan modification

• Fannie Mae also offers help navigating the broader financial effects of this national emergency to homeowners with a Fannie Mae-owned mortgage through its Disaster Response Network*, including:

• A needs assessment and personalized recovery plan

• Help to request financial relief from insurance, servicer, and other sources