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Paying rent during coronavirus: tenants, property managers weigh in

Posted at 10:32 PM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-01 00:40:21-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Wednesday is April 1st meaning rent is due for thousands who are struggling financially across southern Colorado.

On Tuesday, News 5 spoke with local tenants, management companies, and other key players to find out what you need to know. A spokesperson for the Colorado Apartment Association shared that they understand this is a really challenging time for people. So, they're focused on communities coming together to try and find ways for people to be able to pay their rent. The say one of the most important things you as a renter can do right now is to communicate with your housing provider sooner rather than later.

Jessica Cochran said, "It's been hard. It's been uncertain. You don't know what's coming next. You don't know when you're going to be able to go to work next."

Like thousands of people across Colorado Cochran works paycheck to paycheck. She's a cosmetologist at a salon - just one of the many businesses forced to shut down during the coronavirus pandemic.

Cochran said, "Being uncertain on how long it's going to last is terrifying."

Especially now that rent is due.

"We're able to make, you know, full rent and all that stuff come April, come tomorrow, but come May I don't know."

Thankfully for Cochran, her management company is working with her and other tenants.

She said, "Whatever we can afford to pay they're working with us and we'll disperse it out through the next few months or they'll tack it on to the end of our lease."

Brett Weldon, owner and broker of The Springs Team Real Estate Company, said he started reaching out to tenants about a week-and-a-half ago.

Weldon said, "We have about 225 houses and we've had probably 5% of our tenants respond to a letter that we sent them. Basically just asking them to let us know as soon as they can what's going on, tell us the truth about it and we will do what we can to help them."

The company is waiving late fees and won't be evicting anyone.

Weldon said, "Often times we're making agreements with them...tell us what you can afford. If you can afford half your rent this month, half next month."

While thinking about tenants he's also considering the homeowners involved.

He said, "Our owners are in the same situation. We have a lot of owners who, you know, they have this mortgage to pay and expecting rent not to come in. They've got their own rent to pay where they're at and often times they've lost their jobs."

It's also a concern for Michelle Lyng with the Colorado Apartment Association.

When it comes to landlords she said, "They use the rent payments to pay employees, to pay vendors, to pay their's really important that if you can pay your rent you pay your rent so that those resources are left for others who are in dire financial situations."

However, for those who've been hit extra hard she said, "What we're telling people is if you feel like you can't pay your rent on April 1st, tomorrow, please go talk to your housing provider, management to them about your concerns. You'd be surprised at how many are willing to work with you...we're really here to help people. We want to keep people in their homes."

Lyng shared that everything is happening on a case-by-case basis and depends on what property you're at. She says some management companies are extending payments to 90 days.

When it comes to expenses experts say housing and food should be the most important things you take care of right now. Also, make sure you check with your creditors and utility companies to see what kind of help they're providing.

For utility customers in Colorado Springs the quarterly electric cost adjustment kicks in on Wednesday so a typical residential electric bill in the Springs will drop nearly 3%, just shy of 4% for commercial customers and 4.5% for industrial users. Also, the experts tell us that if you are facing financial hardship make minimum payments on things like credit cards and ask for leniency on medical and dental bills. You want to prioritize food on the table, keeping the lights on, and heating your home.

While the Colorado attorney general called for a statewide pause in eviction proceedings neither his office nor the governor's have issued any orders for courts across the state to do so. Counties like Denver, Boulder and Weld counties did come out and say they weren't handling evictions right now. Whether law enforcement will choose to spend their resources enforcing those court orders during the crisis remains to be seen.