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Landlords get caught in the COVID-19 crosshairs

The Park Meadows Apartments in Manchester [Source: Google Earth]

On March 27, Congress officially passed a $2 trillion COVID-19 relief package to deliver an additional $1,200 to Americans while also promising a boost in unemployment insurance benefits. The goal was to provide emergency aid to individuals faced with unemployment during the unprecedented freeze of many businesses.

As unemployment and stimulus checks are readied, many of those same individuals due are still faced with the prospect of finding ways to pay the bills in the meantime. In the same vein, landlords are looking for ways to work with tenants regarding rent payments.

The question recently came to fruition at the Park Meadows Apartments, located in Manchester southeast from Hwy. 141 and Manchester Road. A flyer written by management regarding rent payments was circulated to the complex’s tenants.

The flyer, dated March 25, read: “Nonpayment of rent will still place your household at the normal risk of lawsuit/eviction. Any household that hasn’t paid or signed a promise-to-pay with a minimum 25% of their current balances paid will be submitted to our attorney for lawsuit/eviction by no later than Friday, April 10.”

Following confused and stressed reactions from residents, Park Meadows Apartments issued a follow-up statement on March 31 reading: “Please accept our apologies on the miscommunication of our policy regarding rent collections for those affected by COVID-19. A notice was sent out to our residents that in no way accurately reflects our policy in working with residents who’ve been affected by COVID-19.

“This notice, which was sent by an employee of the community without required review and approval from our management personnel, provides misleading information as to the position Park Meadows is taking to work with residents who are being directly impacted, as we understand some residents have experienced a loss of wages, incurred new medical expenses or been laid off from their place of employment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The statement also comments on its willingness to work with tenants impacted by the pandemic.

“For those who have been directly affected by this virus, we are willing to enter into an agreement with them to provide temporary flexibility for paying rent and other sums that come due, as we understand the importance of residents remaining in their homes to practice social distancing, care for their children and adhere to guidelines to help minimize the spread of this virus. 

“We will continue to prioritize providing superior service to our residents as all of us fight to overcome this pandemic together,” the March 31 statement read. “We extend our wishes for all to remain healthy at this time and sincerely apologize for the confusion and stress this has caused.”

The situation at Park Meadows Apartments is one of many cases across the United States where tension has manifested between unemployed tenants and landlords as unemployment rates continue to rise.

In researching this story, one local attorney confirmed to West Newsmagazine that this situation is not affecting just one landlord and one group tenants. Landlords own real property that must be maintained, he said. Additionally, landlords pay taxes on their properties and provide some services such as water and sewer. Rent pays for all of that. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenges for both groups, he noted.

According to a recent analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, about 3.28 million people filed for unemployment benefits the week before March 21. By comparison, the previous record of 695,000 filings was set back in 1982.

According to that same analysis, job losses in the United States as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic could potentially climb to 47 million, resulting in an unemployment rate of 32%. The unemployment rate during the Great Recession was 25%.

Earlier in March, St. Louis County issued an order effectively suspending both eviction and foreclosure procedures.

As of now, the suspension remains in effect and is slated to last into April.

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