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Economic Fallout From COVID-19 Is Hard On Landlords Too

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Explored the uncertainty from a lot of different perspectives and nothing can feel more destabilizing. The Not knowing if you're going to be able to make your rent next month we've heard on this show about how much renters who've lost income from the current crisis are struggling today. We're going to hear from the other side of that relationship. The landlord my name is Marilyn. Jim I am a small mom and pop landlord in Seattle with my husband We live in a triplex with our children and our tenants. Our House was built as a single family home in nineteen twelve by an Irish immigrant. Who had eighteen children and so? It's a good sized home sometime. In the past it was divided into a triplex. They both have day jobs but they rely on the rental income they get from several properties around the city. You know my husband will be the guy who's pushing the lawnmower so our tenants know us get to know us very well. They see us. They know that our family lives here. And and You know it's it's very much a personal up close up front relationship but that relationship has taken on a new sense of gravity since the financial crisis triggered by the pandemic all. Her tenants paid late in April and then in. May One of her tenants couldn't come up with the money at all. We came to the table with some ideas of what we could do to help. Meet them in the middle and we've come up with a plan that will take us through the next two months and then we're going to check in again in June and reassess but you know my husband and I have also had the conversation of ultimately. How long is this going to last? How long can we last? They're worried because they don't have a lot of extra money on reserve to float their mortgages if their tenants can't pay. We're not hoarding money here. And so we don't have a large cushion to tap into to get through something like this or mortgage lender is only allowing three months of forbearance and they want full repayment. At the end of free months it's hard for us to think. How are we going to get through if Are Tenants get to the point? Where there are no longer able to pay. Npr correspondent. Chris. Arnold has been looking into the dilemma that Maryland yet and many small landlords find themselves in right now and he joins us. Hey Chris Rachel so what stood out to you in Maryland Story. Will I think a lot of people are in the situation? And th there's all kinds of landlords out there and I think people tend to think about landlords is like big mean faceless corporations or you know as people rubbing their hands together wanting the money but there's just a lot of mom and POPs who were regular people and they wanna keep good tenants and they want to help them but they do depend upon this rental income right because they're not be corporations. They got bills to pay to like their mortgage and Congress mandated help for homeowners and that includes small landlords like Maryland. Were in exactly the situation and so when you play the interview for me. The the big red blinking alarm light that I heard in it was. She said that her lender told her that if she skipped payments she have to pay them all back in just a few months in this giant lump sum doesn't make any sense in this crisis in this kind of big balloon. Payment thing is is absolutely not the way that this is supposed to work. Okay so how is it supposed to work but good question So we should say that this is four home loans that our government back so by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and a lot of people don't even realize that their home mortgages backed by the government and somebody but seventy five percent of all homeless in the country are and so as Maryland's I checked and experts at. I've talked to say that for the vast majority of people who were struggling financially in this outbreak for them the rules say that they should make payments again when they're able to and it should be the same monthly payment their payments should not go up no big crazy. Lump sum payments should just get moved to the back and of the loan term. Okay so if it's a thirty year loan now. It's a thirty year loan plus say six months of missed payments on the back end. If these are the rules Chris Wise Maryland hearing something different and can Marilyn just push back yes she absolutely can and I've talked to borrowers who have done that. And sometimes they get a much better answer. And here's what's been going on. And after a lot of initial confusion. The Mortgage Bankers Association says that the companies are dealing with this much. Better this better information out there but the current system has a complicated set of rules and it relies on on lenders. Who've got like call center workers working from home they have to interpret this complicated set of rules properly and borrowers are sort of at the mercy of their lenders getting this right and arguably. It's not really going that well for a lot of people look at what. Maryland's going getting all SPAN INFORMATION. So that's why there are growing calls from Congress to fix this. I talked to Steve. Sharp with the nonprofit National Consumer Law Center. It's so important. We believe for Congress to step in and clearly state through law that for folks who have covid nineteen forbearance the real default should be putting their mortgage payments at the end of the lowe. Okay so just make that. The default make it automatic. So there's confusion the payments. Just go on the back end right and and some members of Congress do WANNA do this. There's a bipartisan group of State Attorneys General who were pushing for this to the CEO of a mortgage company. I talked to likes the idea and I actually called up and talked to Maryland and her husband again and I. Currently they're using their tenants security deposit and the last month's rent to sort of make up some of the difference of the rent that they're not able to pay but that's not going to be able to go on for too much longer and Maryland said look at mean having the certainty of this default option would make them much more comfortable skipping mortgage payments so that they could afford to be more flexible with with their tenants. Yeah because then. We wouldn't even need to be talking about drawing down from the money that they already put on deposit with us you know we could leave that untouched We would definitely have a whole lot more flexibility to to really see you know if if they are drawing from their savings. Maybe they don't need to do

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