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What happens if you can't pay your rent due to COVID

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May 5, 2020

With the global coronavirus outbreak, millions of people around the world have lost their jobs or their paychecks have been reduced. Since mid-March, more than 1 million people have filled out Unemployment claims in the State of New York, which represents 8.3% of its labor force. Others have been able to keep their jobs but with reduced working hours or salaries, which translates to a huge challenge to pay rent.

Fortunately, there is a moratorium on evictions until further notice, which means that tenants who are not able to pay rent cannot be kicked out of their apartments now. Additionally, the state legislators are proposing extending the eviction moratorium for six months beyond the end of the shutdown, which would be a reliever especially for those who still have to find a new job during these times, where also companies have been severely affected.

Here some tips to negotiate with your landlord in case you are unable to pay rent:

Know your rights as a tenant

As mentioned above, landlords cannot kick you out of the apartment if you are not able to pay rent, due to the moratorium on evictions. Also, in case the landlord is increasing your rent by more than 5% or if the landlord decides not to renew your contract, you should be notified in advance.

Keep it polite

Take in mind that landlords might be as affected or worried as you are during this pandemic. So, try to keep your communication very smooth and courteous as possible, starting from your first approach if you are intending to re-negotiate your lease contract or lease start date.

Try to switch to a month to month contract

If you lost your job but still have savings, or if you are still employed but in a vulnerable situation, you can try to switch your lease to a month-to-month contract. This would give both sides more flexibility.

Temporary lower rent, or payment plan

If you have always paid the rent on time, your landlord might be more open to allowing you to pay less during the COVID-19 crisis or to set up a payment plan (e.g. to give you a longer period to pay rent).

Reduction in rent due to closed building amenities

Normally, a portion of the rent you pay is intended to cover the usage of the building’s amenities. But while the COVID-19, most of them have been disrupted to prevent the spread of the virus, so this could be a reasonable fact to request a reduction in the rent while they are closed.

Rethinking if you’re planning to move-out

In case staying in NYC is not feasible for you, you may be able to negotiate to break your lease early. However, before approaching your landlord to discuss it, you may want to consider that lots of buildings have banned moves in and out until further notice.

Additional information

Moratorium on evictions
With layoffs soaring, calls increase for an NYC rent freeze
Tips for negotiating with your landlord during the coronavirus pandemic

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