Some landlords and tenants have had a rocky relationship this past year. Landlords have needed to pay their mortgages and many tenants had a tough time paying rent. Despite all the bumps in the road, things may have smoothened out a bit, and the two adversaries are now working together to get what each of them needs.
On the commercial real estate side, many landlords or property managers have worked out payment arraignments, waived past rent, and have even opted for a percentage in sales instead or a lease extension in lieu of payment.
For example, last year, the brick-and-mortar clothing store, Rue Saint Paul, opened just five weeks before the U.S. went into lockdown.
“The world was just starting to hear about COVID-19, but it was still something that still seemed incredibly far off,” said Kelly Wang. "It was something that was in the back of my mind as something that might impact the business.”
Wang is the owner of the eco-friendly nothing retailer. She thought, then, the worst-case scenario was that the business would close for a few weeks. It ended up closing for four months, and she couldn’t afford the rent for the Brooklyn retail space.
“Because we were so new, we weren’t eligible for any of the government funding programs,” Wang added.
She had been in contact with her landlord, each month through the shutdown. They allowed her to hold off on payment until she reopened. But now, it would be a struggle to pay four months at once, especially since she had almost no revenue coming in all those months. So, she reached back out to her landlord once more to see if there was another agreement they could come to.
“To be honest, I was timid to go to my landlord,” she explained. "I had offered to potentially paying it maybe down the road in a balloon payment and he came back and said let’s just split it.”
For her landlord, it made sense to try and keep her as a tenant instead of trying to find a new tenant during a struggling time in commercial real estate. It also kept another business in the community when several have had to close.
“If we were to have paid our rent in full, we wouldn’t have been able to open our doors in July and get the inventory that we needed to start sales again,” said Wang.
Landlords and tenants are now working together more on the residential property side of things as well.
"It is happening throughout the industry and it doesn’t matter if it is a larger operator or an individual that has a couple of single-family homes,” said Bob Pennigar, president of the National Apartment Association.
Pinnegar says the $25 billion Congress set aside for rent relief has played a major role in residential landlords and tenants working together over the past four months.
“What I am hearing is that property owners are starting to work with the residents to get them to fill out the paperwork and apply for the funds,” Pennigar explained. "Some jurisdictions will allow the property owner to apply for the funds on behalf of the resident.”
Some property owners have turned their offices into rent relief application centers for residents and are guiding them through the complicated process, particularly helpful to lower-income residents who don’t have a computer or internet access.
“In those situations, where we are seeing property owners and residents teaming up to apply for the funds, it is happening faster,” added Pennigar
The money from Congress is only a fraction of the amount of outstanding rent in the U.S., so the landlords and tenants teaming up to apply for rent relief may be a key factor to getting the help before the money runs out.