COLORADO SPRINGS — After a Colorado Springs apartment complex decided not to renew a family's lease in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic, a News 5 viewer decided to donate a portion of his stimulus money to help the family out.
Despite paying her rent, a hard working mother and her son with disabilities were told their lease wasn't going to be renewed at the end of April---with no explanation.
Facing the possibility of homelessness, Christine Farmer reached out to News 5 for help.
Finding affordable housing in this market is problematic enough, but having to move in the middle of a global pandemic creates a whole new set of challenges.
"You know I haven't been working in three weeks," Farmer said via Zoom when we talked with her two weeks ago. "I've been at my job for 5 years and I have a solid job when I do go back. I'll get back on my feet like everyone else but until then, I just want to stay safe and protect my life, my son. That's all I'm asking."
She and her son have been living at Park Ridge Apartments for four years. Fearing they would soon be living out of their car come May 1, Farmer contacted Chief Investigative Reporter Eric Ross.
"I've always watched you guys and I see your News 5 investigations and it just made me think about that and I thought I'd give it a shot," she said. "What do I have to lose?"
Shortly after we got involved, the complex agreed to allow Farmer and her son to stay through the end of May, instead of the initial May 1st vacate date they were provided.
A viewer who asked to remain anonymous also contacted News 5 after our original story and wanted to donate a portion of his stimulus money to Farmer to help with her expenses and rent.
In order to keep the donation a "surprise", News 5 told Farmer that we had a $150 voucher to give her. Little did she know that a generous viewer was donating $400.
"I didn't want to ruin the surprise," Ross told Farmer. "I (actually) have $400 for you."
"Thank you so much," Farmer said. "I don't know what to say. Thank you."
Farmer says this news couldn't have come at a better time as money is tight.
"I maxed out my credit card and paid my rent," Farmer said.
She says this money will help pay for the rent she financed on her card.
" Thank you to whoever did this," Farmer said. "Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I can't tell you how much this means to me."
News 5 is also happy to report that Farmer and her son have been approved for an apartment at a new complex.
As we reported in our previous story, apartment complexes are under no obligation to offer a tenant a lease renewal when their current one expires. They are also not required to provide tenants with an explanation for why their lease isn't being renewed.
Complexes are only required to notify a tenant in writing that their lease is expiring and provide a vacate date.
Tips to help you work with your landlord:
If your lease is expiring in May or June and you have not been offered a lease renewal yet, now is the time to make contact with your property manager and inquire about your situation. You do not want to find yourself scrambling to find new housing at the last minute.
If your financial situation has changed due to COVID-19, make sure you notify your property manager now. Landlords do not like surprises and they have employees to pay too. Dropping an "11th hour" surprise on them at the last minute is not a courteous thing to do. The earlier you can talk with your property manager about your situation, the better.
Never refuse to pay rent or ignore delinquent account notices. This can lead to expensive legal action and a damaged credit score. Instead, pay what you can and try and work out a payment plan. Some landlords will have flexibility, but there is no mandate that landlords work with tenants who already agreed to specific lease terms.
Frequently asked questions:
Q: If I don't pay my rent, can I be evicted during this pandemic?
A: Yes. Although Gov. Jared Polis has asked that landlords hold off on evictions during COVID-19, there is no state or federal law preventing landlords for filing eviction paperwork in court.
Q: I need help paying rent during this pandemic. Where do I go?
A: There are multiple housing and financial assistance programs available to Colorado residents. The Colorado Apartment Association has released this list of resources.
Q: What is 2-1-1 and can they help with rent?
2-1-1 Colorado is able to provide food, shelter and rent assistance to those who meet certain qualifications.