Do I Have to Pay Rent During the Coronavirus Crisis?

Scraping enough cash together for the rent can be a struggle in the best of times. Have you been laid off, furloughed, or had your hours cut? Or, maybe you’re a freelancer or gig worker who has seen cash flow dry up because people are self-isolating or in quarantine. If you’ve been hit hard because of the Coronavirus crisis, it might be impossible to pay this month’s rent. 

Whatever the reason for your financial turmoil, you’re probably asking yourself these questions: Do I have to pay rent during the Coronavirus crisis? How can I cover rent right now? We’ll answer your questions on how to pay rent or mortgages during this global health crisis.

Financial Help During the Coronavirus Crisis

Since many states went into lockdown, the government has released a ton of money to help Americans. In fact, a total of $2 trillion is available to help ordinary folks cope during the crisis. 

Here’s just some of the financial relief available during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • The Families First Act (FFCRA – HR 6201) ensures that employees, self-employed, and 1099 workers get paid sick leave 
  • The Coronavirus stimulus package gives $1,200 to every adult American who filed either a 2018 or 2019 tax return and $500 per dependent child
  • Free testing for COVID-19 with no deductibles to pay or copay
  • Unemployment benefits for 1099 employees, the self-employed, and gig workers

Depending on your circumstances, getting income support could help you pay rent during the COVID-19 outbreak. Of course, any kind of extra cash is a welcome relief. But it still might be enough to pay rent. What then? Can you put off paying rent during the COVID-19 emergency?

Do We Still Pay Rent During the Coronavirus Crisis?

If you were living paycheck to paycheck before the pandemic, you’re probably freaking out about paying your rent now that the job market has taken a nosedive. One survey found that in the first two weeks of March 2020, nearly 30 percent of New York City residents had someone in their household who had lost work due to the Coronavirus crisis. This has only increased since the crisis has considerably worsened in late March. Even the “helicopter money” of $1,200 may not be enough to pay rent on April 1 or May 1. 

No tenants are exempt from paying rent during the Coronavirus crisis. However, some relief measures may allow you to defer rent or mortgage payments during this health emergency. So, you could go for a couple of months without paying rent or your mortgage. But you’ll have to pay rent eventually. 

Let’s look at some of the ways you might not have to pay rent during the pandemic. 

Coronavirus: Paying rent in federally-backed housing

The CARES act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) means that some tenants don’t have to pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this only applies if your rental is part of a HUD housing unit. 

Effectively, you don’t have to pay rent for April through July (120 days). But you will have to pay rent eventually. The CARES Act only protects you from eviction during the 120 days if you don’t pay rent. 

Other types of accommodation that this temporary nationwide rent moratorium includes are: 

  • Housing covered by the Violence Against Women Act
  • Units in a building that has a federally-backed mortgage or multifamily mortgage loan
  • Rentals in the rural housing voucher program

State-wide rent moratoriums during Coronavirus crisis

If you’ve taken a hard financial hit, you might not have to pay rent, depending on the state you live in. Many states have put moratoriums on rents to prevent landlords from recovering rent if it’s late. So, you don’t have to worry about being made homeless during this time. 

If stay-at-home orders or quarantine mean you can’t pay rent during the Coronavirus crisis, you should check current COVID-19 laws in your local state. Moratoriums on rent can be anywhere from 30 to 90 days. However, it’s important to remember that after this period, your landlord can take measures to recover rent payments, but not late fees. 

Qualifying for rent relief related to the coronavirus emergency depends on these factors:

  • You lost your job due to being laid off, or you’re working reduced hours
  • You had to care for your kids because the schools are closed
  • A family member got COVID-19, and you had to care for them
  • You got medical care because you have symptoms of Coronavirus or have tested positive and you’re self-isolating

In all cases, if you think you’ll miss a rent payment, inform your landlord as soon as possible. Some state moratoriums on rents require you do this by the 8th of the following month. 

States that have moratoriums on rents also allow time to repay back rent. So, after this crazy pandemic is over, you could have up to 12 months to make up your missed rent payments. The good news is that you don’t have to pay any late fees, penalties, or interest. 

Will you get evicted if you can’t pay rent during the COVID-19 crisis?

What if your rent isn’t covered by a moratorium and you can’t pay? Are you at risk of becoming homeless? 

Hopefully, you’ve got an understanding landlord who is prepared to offer some respite. Some landlords want tenants to pay at least something while lockdowns and stay-at-home orders are in force. So, if you’re struggling to meet your April 1 or May 1 payments, speak to your landlord as soon as possible.

It’s also good to remember that even in normal times, an eviction process can take ages to complete. But everything has changed during the Coronavirus pandemic — nothing is normal. There are stay-at-home orders, social distancing, travel bans, and state lockdowns. Courthouses across the country are closed until further notice. And goodness knows what other new laws will come into force. So, there’s virtually no chance that any courthouse is going to let a landlord file for eviction during the Coronavirus emergency.

Most landlords will want to keep tenants in the property until the COVID-19 storm passes. After all, in these uncertain times, getting some rent payment is better than nothing at all. So, if you have to choose between putting a meal on the table or paying rent, you know that in the foreseeable future, you’ll not lose your apartment. 

Will I lose my home if I can’t make mortgage payments during Coronavirus?

Homeowners seem to get a better deal than renters during this health pandemic. If you can’t make mortgage payments in April and May, you won’t lose your home because of missed payments. Homeowners also have up to one year to make up any back mortgage payments. 

Many local state governments have also put in place moratoriums for mortgages. So, during this time, your credit rating won’t take a hit if you don’t make mortgage payments. 

Paying Rent During the Coronavirus Crisis

As the end of the month looms, it’s only natural to be stressed about paying your rent. If finances have taken a major hit due to lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, or losing your job, it’s even more worrying. However, during the Coronavirus pandemic, you probably don’t have to pay rent if you can’t afford it. 

Of course, you will have to pay rent eventually. But at least you have two or three months of respite to get through this crisis.