Can You Refuse to Pay Rent During the Coronavirus Pandemic?
Nearly half of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and a staggering 42% say their most significant personal finance resource is their spouse or family member. For millions of Americans, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has taken away the ability to earn a living and keep roofs over their heads.
With or without the stimulus check of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for couples, millions of renters across the United States are worried that they will not be able to pay rent in April and the coming months on top of buying food and other essentials.
Can You Stop Paying Rent During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Some local and state governments have suspended all residential eviction filings indefinitely, as courts remain closed to prevent the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has suspended evictions for HUD housing.
If you do not live in a state or county that put a moratorium on eviction filings and your housing does not fall under HUD’s jurisdiction, does it mean you should pay rent even if you cannot afford it during the coronavirus crisis?
What to Do if You Cannot Pay Rent During the Coronavirus Pandemic?
Unfortunately, you cannot just stop paying rent during the coronavirus pandemic without avoiding landlord-tenant litigation. If you cannot pay rent during the pandemic, you should:
- Examine your lease;
- Talk to a lawyer; and
- Establish a payment plan.
Examine Your Lease
The first thing is to check your lease to explore your legal options that may be applicable during unanticipated circumstances, such as a pandemic, or are otherwise unable to pay rent. Your lease may contain some leeway based on the circumstances. For example, in some cases, lease makes provisions for unemployment or another incident.
Typically, the lease also includes the “force majeure” clause, which may relieve a tenant from paying rent or their other obligations. However, it is uncommon for the force majeure clause to address pandemics.
Still, your lease may include an “act of God” provision, and pandemics typically fall into this category. Discuss your options with a West Palm Beach landlord-tenant dispute attorney.
Talk to a Lawyer
Before discussing the possibility of not paying rent with your landlord, it is advised to consult with an attorney to review your lease and explore your rights as a tenant in Florida. A knowledgeable lawyer will identify the provisions in your lease that may help you get the upper-hand when negotiating with your landlord.
Also, as laws are constantly changing to address the coronavirus pandemic, an attorney may keep you up to date with the new federal or state laws that may be applicable in your particular situation.
Establish a Payment Plan
If your landlord requires you to pay rent during the coronavirus pandemic, consider asking for a payment plan. The plan may suspend payments for the time being and then slowly pay unpaid rent once the pandemic ends, and you are able to earn a living again. In some cases, landlords are willing to forgive 50% of the monthly rent.
Previously, we discussed whether you can stop paying rent if your landlord fails to make necessary repairs. Contact our West Palm Beach landlord-tenant litigation attorneys at Pike & Lustig, LLP, to evaluate your situation. Call at 561-291-8298 for a consultation.