During this pandemic, money is one of the biggest stressors for all of us. My roommate and I are both non- essential workers living in NYC. Once our workplaces started shutting down, we waited by our phones for calls that told us we were either furloughed, or let go. It was sad and scary- for lack of better words. Our workplaces are phenomenal and compensated us for a short period of time before these phone calls. But as May 1st started approaching, we began brainstorming on the idea of a rent relief plan for us. Governor Cuomo encouraged all NYC tenants to reach out to their landlords, but to not get our hopes up, because landlords have mortgages to pay. Keep in mind, my roomie and I could both pay our rent, we just wanted to make sure that our savings were going to last us through the whole quarantine. We didn’t want to pay our rent and then not have enough left for emergencies.
So, when mid-April came around, we started to come up with our plan. We went into it with the mentality, “go big or go home”. We were reaching for the moon with hopes to land among the stars. We confided in lawyer friends, real estate agent friends, and parents to try and figure out the best way to approach this.
We had to call the office of our landlord in order to get a hold of his email address, we let him know our situation and sent our email his way. The email introduced us, explained our situation as non-essential workers affected by COVID-19, and described our ideal rent relief plan month to month. A week went by and we heard nothing. We sent the email again. Another week went by, and we heard nothing. We called the office, and got the receptionist every time because no one else was there. Don’t get me wrong, our landlord manages multiple buildings in NYC, and I can’t imagine having to deal with every tenant’s email about rent relief, while figuring out if you can afford to pay the mortgage on the building itself. May 1st was now RAPIDLY approaching and we still hadn’t heard anything. We were emailing and calling everyday by this point. Then someone answered the phone! Our angel. He told us to forward the email to him because the landlord would probably make him handle it anyway (HA). After all of this mess, they denied our original plan. We weren’t surprised, it was a little far-fetched. But they told us to send another plan, with a more liberal payback of the rental arrears plan than the one we suggested. So we did, and our new plan was accepted. My roommate and I finally felt like we could breathe again.
Here are some tips on how to handle this situation:
- Send the email/phone call as soon as possible. You want to give them enough time to figure it out before the first of the month.
- BE NICE in the emails and on the phone. You never know what your landlord is going through personally during this time, or with their family.
- Lay your plan out clearly, don’t provide a backup plan in the email because you don’t want to confuse them if they see too many numbers in the email (not saying they’re dumb obvs, but think about how much they have going on).
- If you plan on renewing your lease, it won’t hurt to mention that in the email. You want to show them that you enjoy living in your apartment, and plan on staying for a while. It shows that you’re someone they’d want to work with on this.
- My roommate and I disagreed on a plan of action for if they never responded. But, we were able to have calm conversations expressing our opinions and what we are comfortable doing/not doing. We agreed to disagree. Luckily, they responded so we never had to deal with it, but I suggest to sit down with each other and lay out a plan you both agree on for a “worst case scenario” situation.
Don’t be scared to reach out! Everyone else is. The last thing we want to do right now is sit at home, but we REALLY don’t want to sit at home stressing about money. Even if they end up saying no, you’ll be glad you tried. You don’t want to leave this quarantine saying “Oh, what if”. If you know you did everything you could, it’s out of your hands and nothing to stress over. I feel like the idea in the previous sentence applies to more than just a rent relief plan… (*cough* life!)