To support the multifamily community through the current COVID-19 crisis, we’ve launched a series of discussions centered around its impact on the rental housing industry with the latest data, expert insights and actionable measures stakeholders can take to minimize fallout. You can register for upcoming webcasts and watch previous episodes on demand at the COVID-19: Resource Center.
This is a condensed summary from the 7th webcast in the series, COVID-19: How the CARES Act Impacts You*, broadcast on April 2, featuring RealPage® VP and Deputy Chief Economist Jay Parsons and VP Legal Mike Semko.
ECONOMIC UPDATE & NMHC GUIDANCE FOR MULTIFAMILY
Congress approved the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2-Trillion stimulus package, on March 27 to try to stem the tide of national economic deterioration from the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor reported historic figures for the most unemployment claims filed in a single week—nearly 3.3M. Those numbers doubled to 6.6M in this week’s report.
The spiraling job loss is expected to worsen. The Federal Reserve of St. Louis speculates that as many as 47M people will lose their jobs, pushing the unemployment rate to an unprecedented 32%. With so many Americans out of work—and the stimulus funds not yet distributed—the rental housing industry is focused on how much rent gets paid this month. RealPage is watching those numbers closely and collaborating with the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) to create an industry-wide tracking report on rent payments starting this month.
In addition to encouraging member organizations to keep renewals flat, the NMHC is also advocating that members establish payment plans for renters. We know many of you are in alignment with these guidelines. In today’s poll of webcast attendees, we asked if your companies would allow payment plans for renters. The overwhelming response was that 95% will put these measures in place.
THE CARES ACT: 3 KEY SECTIONS
The NMHC has applauded Congress’ quick action on the passage of the CARES Act to prevent total economic collapse. Out of the 800+-page legislation, there are three key sections that offer relief to apartment owners, homeowners and tenants experiencing hardship directly or indirectly from COVID-19.
SECTION 4022 – Foreclosure Moratorium
Section 4022 pertains to owner-borrowers with properties comprised of 1-4 units purchased with federally-backed mortgage loans. This applies to all single-family and multifamily mortgages held by GSEs, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Retroactive to March 18, 2020, mortgage services cannot initiate or continue the foreclosure-related activity for 60 days.
Borrowers can seek forbearance of loan payments, regardless of delinquency status, for up to 180 days. Borrowers can also file forbearance extensions for an additional 180 days (for a total of 360 days of forbearance if needed). Extension requests must be made during the covered period and the borrower cannot request a shortened period.
SECTION 4023 – Multifamily Mortgage Forbearance + Eviction Moratorium
Section 4023 allows owner-borrowers with properties of 5 or more units and federally-backed multifamily mortgages to receive forbearance if loans were current as of February 1, 2020.
Once a qualified property owner receives mortgage forbearance, it triggers additional protections for the renters/tenants of those properties. The owner-borrower cannot evict or initiate eviction proceedings solely for the non-payment of rent or other charges and late fees cannot be applied for late rent payments. It does not waive rent or utility payments or void leases.
Even if the property owner does not request forbearance, it does not necessarily mean they can evict or apply late fees because statewide measures have resulted in de facto moratoriums. It is best to seek local counsel in these matters to ensure legal compliance.
Owner-borrowers do have recourse for expelling residents/tenants for non-payment only after the forbearance period has expired. At that time, they can lawfully issue a 30-day notice to vacate.
SECTION 4024 – Temporary Moratorium on Eviction Filings & Waiver of Late Fees
Section 4024 grants to residents/tenants protections against evictions and late fees or other charges applied to the nonpayment of rent if the residents/tenants reside at a property: 1) with a federally-backed mortgage or multifamily mortgage, 2) that participates in a program covered by the Violence Against Women Act Act (including Section 8 Voucher Programs and Section 42 Tax Credit properties), or 3) that participates in the Rural Voucher Program.
Effective immediately, residents/tenants of single-family and multifamily properties cannot be evicted or charged late fees or other charges associated with the nonpayment of 2020 rent from March 27 to July 25 (120 days). They do not need to prove a hardship for this relief. Notices to vacate cannot be issued until after July 25 and must grant no less than 30 days of notice.
However, this relief only applies to evictions and fees for non-payment of rent. Residents/tenants may still be evicted for reasons outside this requirement (e.g., destroying property, excessive nuisance, criminal activity). Fees can also be assessed for property damage.
STATE AND LOCAL RULES
At least 35 states and many local jurisdictions for major metro areas have statewide moratoria on evictions and late fees for the non-payment of rent, with a growing list of new rules and protections for residents/tenants. The CARES Act does not replace protections instituted at the state and local levels.
The CARES Act does not mandate payment plans, however, as stated earlier, the NMHC encourages property owners to adopt the business practice. Properties pursuing this route should inform residents that a payment plan is available or in process. RealPage has published a payment modification agreement and waiver of late fees document for reference that can be obtained from a RealPage advisor. These forms are provided for informational purposes only and are not legal advice. Customers should consult with local counsel before using these forms or implementing payment plans.
When implementing a payment plan, make sure to have something in writing with language that specifies how the payment is going to be modified, what the terms are, and that stipulates that, no matter how the payments are modified, the original lease obligations are still enforceable.
You’ll find a detailed CARES Act Summary and more NMHC policy guidance here. For Jay Parsons’ and Mike Semko’s complete discussion on COVID-19: How the CARES Act Impacts You, including their answers to viewer questions, watch the webcast on demand anytime here.
*This content is intended to notify readers of new developments in the law. It should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only. You are urged to consult your own attorney concerning your situation and specific legal questions you have.