Pandemic leaves some landlords fighting for survival with no help

Camille Duke, creator of Tallahassee Investors Network, live via Zoom during interview.

By Kiara Cain

It has been almost a year since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

The number of people left without jobs or any source of income continues to increase as the pandemic persists, including landlords and property owners.

“The government forgets that landlords are humans who has bills too,” says Camille Duke, co-founder and leader of Tallahassee Investors Network.

Duke and her partner, Mark Dobert, created Tallahassee Investors Network to educate others on real estate investing through networking. Many of Tallahassee’s residents attend these meetings and discuss new strategies to be successful in the business. Together Duke and Dobert own 11 different properties. While they’ve had no issues with any of their tenants making their monthly payments, some of their fellow investors have not been so lucky.

“There’s some tenants who didn’t even really lose their jobs. They’re just choosing not to work and take advantage of the pandemic. Some of our landlords have had to do forbearances because they can’t pay their mortgage and the government isn’t doing anything for them. It’s really sad,” says Duke.

The Tallahassee Housing Authority, also known as HUD, plays a huge role in the housing of local residents. The agency provides low-income families with safe and sanitary homes. While the organization has seen a bit of an increase in the number of tenants having an issue paying their rent on time, the pandemic hasn’t caused much of a change in their field of work.

“HUD owns and manages 541 properties in the city of Tallahassee where they provide homes for residents. Residents are required to pay 30 percent of their monthly income towards their rent. That is how our program has always worked so there isn’t much of difference in our workload nor are we as members directly affected by it,” said Brenda Williams, executive director of the Tallahassee Housing Authority.

The difference between the agency and the city’s local landlords is that landlords don’t have anyone who can compensate them for the tenants’ late or missing payments. If their tenants are not able to make their monthly payment, HUD helps residents to get their rent paid through the Leon County Cares Program.

Due to the substantial impact COVID-19 has had on the country’s unemployment rate, an eviction moratorium was put into place. It initially went into effect March 7, 2020, and was set to end July 24, 2020, but was recently extended until this March.

“As a protective public health measure, I will extend the current order temporarily halting residential evictions until at least March 31, 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a historic threat to our nation’s health. It has also triggered a housing affordability crisis that disproportionately affects some communities,” Rochelle P. Walensky, Centers for Disease Control director, said in a statement in January.

Walensky continued: “Despite extensive mitigation efforts, COVID-19 continues to spread in America at a concerning pace. We must act to get cases down and keep people in their homes and out of congregate settings — like shelters — where COVID-19 can take an even stronger foothold.”

Now that the eviction moratorium has been extended until March, landlords still have no right to evict residents and have to wait until March 31, 2021 to see what happens next.

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