CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As people lose their jobs and struggle to make rent, landlords are taking a range of measures to keep the payments coming in and some are more controversial than others.
Michael Bowman of Bowman Real Estate, for example, is not cutting tenants any slack.
“I’m notoriously a landlord who doesn’t let tenants get by with any exemptions,” he said. “It’s never fun throwing a single mother and their three kids out on the streets. It’s never fun, but it’s business.”
Call him unsympathetic if you want, but Bowman said the 200 property owners he represents bank on $450,000 worth of monthly rent collections.
“We’re talking about a grandmother who has a 10-unit apartment complex who is a widow and they need this income,” he said. “This is my standard client.”
Even as court hearings are temporarily on hold, Bowman said he’s moving forward with filing evictions and attempting to collect.
“The courthouse is open and able to record filings,” he said. “Any tenant that is delinquent beyond my standard grace period will be filed on. When the courts make the decision to hear the case, it’s up to them. I must control what is in my control. “
“I know that there are tenant advocates that will say, ‘You’re basically going to try to scare these tenants into paying even though you don’t have the backing of the courts right now,’” WCNC Charlotte said.
“It’s not about scaring, it’s about holding people accountable in good times and in bad,” Bowman responded.
Over at The Avant at Steele Creek, not only is the property manager there trying to convince people to renew their leases now and avoid rent increase, but the complex also rolled out a new rental loan program.
Apryl Lewis, a tenant, housing advocate and recently terminated employee of the complex, fears the program will create additional hardships.
“I know for some people it probably would be a lifesaver,” she said. “But it’s like your asking people to go into more debt.”
Till, the company administering the loans, said this is actually a cheaper alternative than late or eviction fees. According to the company, tenants have to be employed to be approved, only get a loan for one month’s rent and have six months to pay it back incrementally. Till said the cost of interest is about $47 for a $1,200 loan.
“Till’s mission is to radically improve a renter’s ability to pay and stay in the home,” the company said in a statement. “For the renter, Till provides affordable and flexible rental payment solutions that help renters avoid costly late fees (usually $50 to $100 due near the 5th of the month), eviction fees (usually $250-400 when evictions are filed around the 15th of the month), and evictions which destabilize the renter and their community.”
A spokesperson for The Avant at Steele Creek said the complex receives no commission or payment from the loan program.
“Till is one of a handful of resources that the apartment management team shares with residents if/when they are facing financial hardship, as the last thing they want is people losing their homes due to a temporary loss of employment or other short-term situation,” the spokesperson said. “Other resources that the leasing team would share with residents include unemployment benefits, rapid return tax filing, as well local crisis centers that provide financial support and assistance. Of course, it is entirely up to the resident to choose which of these resources is most appropriate for their specific situation.”
The complex has also waived late fees until April 30, offered a six-month deferred payment plan to residents who meet certain criteria and is encouraging residents whose leases are up within 90 days to renew with zero increases.
“The ownership/management team understands the need to be accommodating during these difficult times - their goal is simply to help support residents and keep families in their homes,” Melinda Sherwood said.
Back at Bowman Real Estate, the owner said he’s getting death threats and plenty of blowback, but he has no plans to change his stance. He said his client's risk foreclosure if they don't receive the rent they rely on to pay their mortgages.
“Nobody saves for rainy days,” he said. “I’m the person standing up for the landlord in this scenario and yes, I’m very comfortable with that.”