A crisis like COVID-19 is a very difficult time to own property—even within a managed community. This becomes even more challenging if you happen to be a landlord who regularly rents that property as a part of your long-term income. As a professional D.C. association property management provider, we know how hard you work to keep your renters happy because this ultimately preserves the value of your property. However, we know that renting any property comes with certain expectations that your renters also commit to. This is doubly true for rental properties located within the rules and regulations of any community association.
Occasionally, issues you likely never expected to emerge have suddenly left a thorn in your side in the form of expensive damages or repeated violations. Your first instinct as the property owner, in this situation, may be to pursue eviction of the renter who continues to flout the rules.
As the leader in D.C. association property management, we'd like to pose this question: What happens when you cannot evict a renter due to a national health crisis or another disaster? When laws and regulations are put in place during a crisis to protect excellent renters, what can you do about those who flagrantly violate your lease? No property owner wants to sit idly by as their property and their income burns—but this may be the exact scenario you find yourself facing.
Consider our insight as a professional association management provider when deciding how to navigate the need for eviction during a crisis.
As a note: This post is not a substitute for proper legal counsel and contains information that was current at the time of its publishing. When in doubt, it's best to reach out to the professionals at EJF Real Estate Services or to obtain guidance from a skilled attorney.
When You Find Yourself Locked in an Evictions Ban
We are currently facing a long-term suspension on evictions now as a result of legislation handed down by the Council of the District of Columbia. While intended to protect your residents as a result of income loss, shutdowns, and general financial difficulty, it also paves the way for the less than scrupulous to take advantage of such protections.
Fortunately, there are some proactive steps you can take in the face of such predation to protect yourself and your property. These same steps will also help prepare you to move forward with an eviction once restrictions in D.C. have lifted.
Excellent Documentation Skills Matter More Than Ever
One of the best things you can do while there is a ban on evictions is to thoroughly document every detail about your interactions with your renters. Ongoing communication with tenants, such as notices, emailed or texted replies, or other correspondence should all be undertaken with mediums you can easily catalog. When you have such documentation on-hand and at the ready, you'll be one step ahead of the backlog when the courts reopen.
Continue to Send and Document Notices
You may not be in a position where you can legally pursue an eviction through the courts. However, you should continue to send notices to your renters as needed about violations of their leasing agreement and keep a record of each notice you send. If you have a tenant that has refused to work with you on backdated rental payments, for example, make sure they are receiving notices. Do everything you would do if the eviction was something possible.
Continuing to manage regular notices and communications during a crisis will help further document your due diligence.
Move to Legally Evict When Suspensions Lift
Now that you have done the necessary paperwork, you can begin to prepare what you need for the actual eviction proceedings. At some point, the ban on evictions will come to an end. When that time comes, you want to be ready to act so that you do not waste any further time or risk increasing damage to your rental property. As a professional provider of D.C. association property management, we know these issues can be especially dire for property owners with a rental inside a managed community: renters who violate your lease could draw the ire of your association.
With all the documentation you have on-hand from communications, notices, and more, you will be ready to act on the eviction. You can also begin working with your attorney on the strategy necessary to hit the ground running. The more preparation you do, the less you will have to wait after the fact.
Work With Professionals in Advance
In addition to our skills as an association management company, we also provide expert property management services to property owners in the D.C. area. From experience, we know that many property owners can avoid the kinds of issues we've described above in the first place with a thorough approach to screening. The most efficient way to do this is to work with a skilled property manager from the start.
While it can be challenging to collect rent during a crisis, that is likely not the only issue you are facing if you've found yourself seeking advice on evictions during this time. Showing compassion as a landlord for your renters cannot supersede your need to protect your property from extensive damage or your community from illegal activity.
When you cannot evict during a crisis, do your due diligence and prepare accordingly. If you do happen to be facing a difficulty in how to approach your renters when it comes to rent collection, examine our free Collecting Rent in a Handbook before considering the necessity of an eviction. Your answers may just lie within!