Landlords and property managers, due to the shelter-in-place order in Maryland, are not allowed by law to evict tenants until April 30 at the earliest. However, tenants are still obligated to pay their rent.
Courts are closed, and eviction paperwork must be handled by the court system. Therefore, there is no legal action landlords are permitted to take at this time.
If the tenant comes up short on rent, it will start a running tally, and will continue to add up until the balance is paid off.
Peggy Palmer, real estate agent with Exit Landmark Realty in White Plains, said tenants cannot be “thrown out” of their homes, simply because the courts are not processing evictions at this time.
“They still owe the money,” Palmer said. “They still will be evicted in the future after this is all over, and they are legally bound to pay.”
Ryan Vertucci, president of Real Property Management Gold in Waldorf, said that the company is handling each tenant differently based on their individual circumstance.
“We are handling it on a case-by-case basis,” Vertucci said. “Anyone who may have a problem, we are trying to verify if it is directly related to COVID-19.”
Vertucci said that out of 350 homes Real Property Management Gold has on the market, only 10 tenants are having issues.
“Being in Southern Maryland is pretty good for us,” Vertucci said. “The majority of the people are government workers, military and people who are not impacted by the crisis. We are not really too concerned in regards to collections of rent.”
Vertucci said the company is waiving penalties and hoping the tenants will be able to make payments with their upcoming stimulus money from a coronavirus relief bill that recently passed Congress.
“Just because we cannot evict does not mean there are not still penalties,” Vertucci said. “However, we are waiving all penalties. The full balance is still going to be due. All you are doing is kicking the can down the road. They are getting unemployment plus stimulus, most of them should be able to make payments.”
Vertucci said there is no forgiveness of rental debt, and as soon as the crisis is over, the cases are going to collections because “it goes against the credit bureau.”
“They will get evicted in the end,” Vertucci said. “We are in a little bit of limbo. There is a 120-day ban on evictions and they cannot pay rent for three months and still get to stay.”
Although the tenant may not be forced to pay the rent at the moment, the property manager is still obligated to pay for necessities like utilities and maintenance.
“The property owners still have to pay the bills,” Vertucci said. “When money is not flowing, it creates a problem. The landlord will not have any money to do repairs; some places get turned into slums.”
Forrest Baggarly, managing director for Blackstone Management in Waldorf, said the company is implementing other forms of payment and extending deadlines for tenants’ payments.
“We definitely have compassion and know that tenants have monetary concerns,” Baggarly said. “We have waived all of our late fees for April. We have extended our due dates from the 1st to the 10th.”
Baggarly said the company is working on a case-by-case basis and the pandemic is definitely a major monetary concern.
“We want to be as compassionate as possible. We want people to sit back and think about what is important in your life,” Baggarly said. “Is it important that you pay your rent or that you buy that new fancy purse? We ask that the ones who can make it work, make it work.”
Baggarly said Blackstone Management is allowing tenants to make multiple payments throughout the month, as well as pay with a credit card.
He told the Maryland Independent that since all the office workers are currently working from home, tenants are able to contact them through a smartphone app.
“I think Blackstone is in a very unique situation,” Baggarly said. “We have invested heavily in technology over the last five years. We want to make it as easy as possible for tenants to contact our office. Even though our office is not open to the public, we still have the capabilities [to interact with customers.]”
Baggarly said even though this is a difficult time for tenants socially, mentally and economically, there is no plan to waive rent or let people live rent free.
“There is no plan to give free rent,” Baggarly said. “It is definitely concerning.”
Staci Mildenstein, property manager of DeHanas Real Estate Services in Waldorf, told the Maryland Independent in an email that the No. 1 priority of the company is the health and safety of the community.
“We want members of the community to know we are here to help,” Mildenstein said. “We are currently making give away and toiletry packages for anyone in our county that needs them. [The company] has been delivering toiletries to members of the community that are unable to go out or find items in the grocery store.”
Mildenstein is anticipating “many” of the tenants will not be able to pay rent on time or at all in the coming months.
“We reached out to each tenant when the non-essential businesses were instructed to close to get a feel of how many would be directly affected,” Mildenstein wrote. “As of now, it looks like 30 to 40 percent will be late with their rent or unable to pay indefinitely. We understand and sympathize with all of them, there is simply nothing that can be done.”
Mildenstein encourages people — who have the ability — to make donations to Our Place Waldorf or “any other local nonprofit” that needs help right now.
To make a donation to Our Place Waldorf LLC, visit www.ourplacewaldorf.com/donate/.