Michigan Coronavirus: Rental companies ready to deal during coronavirus layoffs

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With April 1 bringing the due date for rent, many across West Michigan who are out of work due to coronavirus closures found themselves struggling to make ends meet.

The director of the Rental Property Owners Association of Michigan, Clay Powell, said property owners are going to see a tremendous hit in rent payments over the next few months as tenants are laid off or furloughed. Powell’s job is to help property managers navigate the financial uncertainty ahead.

“Our members are already in communication with most of their tenants,” Powell said, “expressing to them that if they need some kind of relief that they’re willing to look at that because it’s better for all parties if they can work out some sort of agreement.”

Since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer temporarily banned rental evictions last month as part of the state’s coronavirus response, property owners are more willing than ever to come up with alternative payment plans like deferments.

“Meaning not waiving the rent due, but discounting rent now maybe substantially and then collecting those rent payments in the future months for the remaining of that rental period,” Powell said.

Banks have offered similar solutions to homeowners unable to pay their monthly mortgage. Ericka Chandler, a Grand Rapids server temporarily out of work since many restaurants have been forced to close, said her bank already had a program in place to help people in her situation.

“They were like OK, (the payment) is deferred for three months,” Chandler said. “You’ll get paperwork in like 45 days, fill that out and turn that in and then those three payments will just be tacked on to the end of my mortgage.”

While those still getting a paycheck may be tempted to take advantage of these relief programs, Powell said those who can pay now should.

“I call it the trickle up theory of economics,” Powell told News 8. “If tenants who can afford to pay the rent, don’t, then that puts more pressure on the rental property owners and property managers to do something different with tenants who can’t. So we’re hoping everyone’s in this together and works it out.”

People in Kent County struggling to make rent can reach out to the housing program at The Salvation Army as a resource to help. The program’s housing service director, Cathy LaPorte, said her biggest concern is what will happen once the temporary ban on evictions is lifted, as many families may find themselves months behind in rent.

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