With the record level of unemployment, and thousands of people working with reduced salary or hours because of the COVID-19 business shutdown, paying basic monthly expenses like rent and utilities may be challenging.
Tenants who can’t pay their rent are subject to being evicted, but with COVID-19’s universal impact on the economy, the federal government and local authorities have implemented temporary suspension of evictions.
Those suspensions soon expire.
“We are expecting a large volume of tenants who will need assistance,” said Mary DeVries, managing attorney at Clay County Legal Aid, a branch of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid.
When suspension of eviction expires, landlords may take legal action to remove tenants who haven’t paid their rent.
DeVries said, like many other legal issues, getting ahead of the problem can head off consequences.
While the temporary eviction suspensions don’t waive the responsibility to pay rent, she advises that if tenants can’t pay rent because they’ve lost income due to the shutdown, they should communicate with their landlord and try to work out an arrangement to pay partial rent or defer payments until the economy – and their job – is recovering.
“Granted, landlords want their rent, but if income loss is temporary, they may be willing to work with the tenant,” DeVries said.
A sample letter requesting temporary rent reduction is available at jaxlegalaid.org and JALA can help tenants if they are served eviction papers after the suspensions expire and cannot afford to hire an attorney, DeVries said.
Visit the website or call (904) 356-8371 for more information.