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Some Landlords Eyeing Tenants With Jobs Who Didn’t Pay Rent

Building owners start means-testing en masse to find out which residents are eligible to miss payments without penalty because of coronavirus-related job loss

Building owners start means-testing en masse to find out which residents are eligible to miss payments without penalty because of coronavirus-related job loss. With nearly a third of American renters failing to pay rent during the first week of April, landlords are scrambling to determine which tenants were excused because of lost jobs—and which ones are using the coronavirus as a cover for not paying.

Some jurisdictions across the country have imposed temporary eviction moratoriums that will enable renters to stay in their homes despite an inability to pay because of the spike in unemployment stemming from the pandemic. Other places, like Los Angeles, have gone further by allowing tenants who demonstrate a coronavirus-related hardship to defer missed rent for up to a year, without incurring late fees.

Building owners have started means-testing en masse, trying to uncover which of their residents are eligible to miss payments without penalty because of job loss and creating payment plans for affected tenants on a case-by-case basis.

“We’ve had people say I’ve lost my job and I won’t be able to pay,” said Daryl Carter, founder of Avanath Capital Management, who said he offered all tenants at his more than 10,000 apartments a 10% rent discount for April. “We’re going to look at each decision independently.”

Some landlords, however, believe a number of tenants whose paychecks haven’t been disrupted by the pandemic are withholding rent payments anyway. They are dedicating more staff to deal with the increased volume of phone calls from renters asking for relief. They have also been assigning more people to help retrieve and make determinations on financial documents from tenants, such as layoff letters from their employers.

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