Can't make rent? Here's your renter's survival guide

ByMichael Finney and Randall Yip KGO logo
Wednesday, April 29, 2020
What to do if you can't pay your rent
EMBED <>More Videos

Advocates for both tenants and landlords agree: this is what you should do if you can't afford to pay your rent during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

PLEASANTON, Calif. (KGO) -- We're just days away from May 1, a date when rent will be due for many. Unfortunately, far too many impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic won't be able to pay.

Janine Nelson is like so many others these days.

The dental hygienist lost her job due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

"I work in two different offices and both of them shut down. So it's just a struggle to put food on the table and the inability to pay rent," said the Pleasanton resident.

RELATED: Tenant who lost job due to COVID-19 given 3 days to pay rent by landlord; eviction feared

The single mom cares for both a 15-year-old son and her father.

She says her next rent payment will eat up her entire emergency fund.

"If this goes on for another month or so, we might have an issue," said Nelson.

For advice, 7 On Your Side consulted two different people who on the surface you might expect would have opposing views.

Tom Bannon is Chief Executive Officer of the California Apartment Association, a trade association for landlords.

Jacqueline Ravenscroft is a tenants' rights attorney with Tobener and Ravensroft.

RELATED: Students stuck with off-campus apartment leases after schools shut down due to coronavirus

"It's really about communicating with your landlord about what you're financially able to do," Ravenscroft said.

"Our recommendations to our members and to the entire industry is basically be sympathetic. Work with your residents to set up some type of repayment plan," said Bannon.

Both suggest that tenants who can't pay their rent approach their landlord and work out a deal.

Make it clear you want to pay but can't right now.

Offer to make partial payments over a period of time.

The best deal is one that works for both sides.

"It's costly for a landlord to look for a new tenant. Even if you can only accept partial rent, accept partial rent," Bannon said.

If you can't even make partial rent, Ravenscroft suggests asking your landlord to waive your rent altogether.

The power a tenant holds has never been stronger.

A judicial council ruling suspends all eviction summons until three months after the current stay of emergency ends.

"The benefit to the landlord potentially agreeing to forbearance is that they get to keep that tenant in the unit long term so there's no turnover," said the attorney.

Bannon agrees that might work for some landlords.

"There are some owners that have the financial wherewithal to last a lot longer without the rent, and then there are some owners who just like the general population, maybe overextended," he said.

Bannon thinks the current stay on evictions is too restrictive and thinks the court should allow the eviction of problem tenants and give those cases a higher priority. By the way, the tenant we introduced to you earlier in this story, Janine, has been able to negotiate a payment plan with her landlord.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

If you have a question or comment about the coronavirus pandemic, submit yours via the form below or here.

Get the latest news, information and videos about the novel coronavirus pandemic here