As part of our own Jonathan Garber’s webcast series, he continues to interview leaders in the community who share tips and strategies to help us all Thrive during the Coronavirus shutdown. Today, Jonathan is joined by David Strauss of the Strauss Law Group. David explains the Top Three Things you can do if you can’t pay your rent. This is critical information during this difficult time.
If you’re a leader and want to share your knowledge with the market, email Jonathan at [email protected]
Good morning, everybody. It’s Jon Garber from flying chimp media. And I’m joined again today by really terrific guest with tremendous experience. Mr. David Strauss of the Strauss Law Firm. Good morning, David. Good morning Jonathan in the morning. Any viewers we have today. Yes, you look great for quarantine. But something tells me you’ve been out fishing a little. I don’t know if that’s legal, but it looks like you’ve been out fishing. So, I guess my tan gave me away. That gives you think that’s I lack of saying gave that away. I have a creative interpretation of the governor’s order the safe at home order combined with the order. He entered the next day saying that his order takes precedence over any local rules ordinances orders that were enacted in response to covid-19. Like the one where they said the beach is closed. Can you say if you’re going to eat your fish? Does that become an essential worker you are you an essential worker for? Catching fish actually under the governor’s safer at home order fishing is specifically enumerated as an essential recreational activity. Well, you’re safe. Maybe we should start the hashtag fishing alone. Yep. So, David I asked you on the phone if you would talk to our audience a little bit if they’re renters specifically if they’re renters. I know a lot people who May have been able to pay their rent first couple months of this shutdown one month. Now two months. Obviously, we see jobless numbers go up and if they’re not in a rent crisis today, there may be seeing one around the corner. And do you have a couple of tips? Maybe just three top tips that people who are renting need to know specifically for, Florida. Yes, first and foremost what people need to understand is the governor’s order that imposed a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures for 45 days, which expires May 18th. It’s not that far away does not in any way suspend attendance obligation to pay the rent to their landlord all it means that it is if they can’t the landlord can’t file for eviction until May 18th or later and that’s very serious because That means is if a tenant doesn’t pay and the landlord serves a three-day notice a three-day rent to man and says here’s what you owe me. If you don’t pay it within three days, I’m suing you for eviction. Well, guess what? If they don’t pay within that three days, the landlord can treat the lease as terminated the landlord has no obligation to reinstate it. They may have to wait till May 18th the file for eviction, but if they don’t want to reinstate that lease and there are no means required. To even if the tenant comes up with every penny, they owe the lease is already been terminated. The landlord could say no get out. There are many reasons why a landlord might want to get their tenants out now. They might want an empty building because it might be easier for them to sell it or flip it. So that’s important to understand is that the governor’s order does not provide relief from the obligation and you can lose very valuable rights. If you don’t pay your rent. So, the number 2 tip that I think is very important is really the most important is just like with a mortgage issue communication with the landlord. If you don’t communicate with the landlord, they have no reason to make an exception for you. They’re going to serve you with that three-day notice, but if you communicate with them and try to work something out with them. And there’s a lot of creative ways that you can work this out. First. A lot of tenants don’t realize the fact that their landlord may be relying on their rent money to pay the underlying mortgage on the property. Right the landlord might need that money. They got their own bills to pay too. That’s not always the case but a very often Maybe But so one proposal that attended could make in that scenario if they have last month and security already being held by their landlord may be the landlord will agree to apply last month and security to two of the months that they can’t pay now to ease this along the landlord still is getting their money. They can still pay their underlying mortgage or whatever other bills. They need to pay that from another Arrangement. They could reach is some form of forbearance. Where the landlord Let’s say forgives the rent does not forgive us but for Bears the red obligation for 90 days delays or bears delays. That’s for suspends the obligation for 90 days or 60 or whatever the tenant needs and then maybe the landlord will agree that the arrears can be broken down into six equal monthly payments to make it up in addition to the regular monthly rent when it comes to not an option for everybody but maybe an option for some there the point is to get creative. Some landlords will have the ability to be more patient than others certainly but work with and communicate with your landlord. Don’t be in the situation where you least could have been terminated. So, part of the key to that I think is communicate. Don’t wait for the landlord to come to you. That’s not necessarily that they’re not financial genius is necessarily. I mean I you and I know people who are commercial investors than a lot of people just live in a multi-tenant building guy can live on site. It’s not that sophisticated a situation in most cases. A renter. It doesn’t the landlord. It doesn’t really suit them to start evicting people and then in this climate try and find new qualified renters. It’s not that easy. There’s their legal processes costly process for them to so they may be open really talking to you if you’re open and honest we’re in this together. So, landlords have very good point to emphasize Jonathan is a lot of people are going to wait until the landlord comes hounding them for the Money and that’s a mistake. I think the landlord is going to respond much more positively and be more flexible with the tenant who reaches out before the rent is due to say, oh my God, I’m terribly sorry. I’ve been furloughed from work or my income has disappeared, and I don’t know how I’m going to pay the rent. Let’s work something out there going to find more flexibility if they approach it that way, especially if you’ve been a steady paying tenant for a period of time. They know your character. Great, great tip, is there a third one you have? Yeah, the third option is for the people have no options. I just want to give people some understanding of how the process works so that they can sleep at night and know the sheriff’s not coming tomorrow or any time soon. Scary. Yeah, if they’re going to be people unfortunately, they’re going to be landlords who are not willing to work with their tenants going to be landlords who for whatever personal reason want to get the tenant out of possession as soon as they can and for people In that scenario. First of all, they should rest assured. Nobody can file for eviction of the not going to accept any eviction filings until after May 18. The other thing they need to know is once eviction proceeding start again. The system is going to be severely backlogged and it’s going to be an eviction crisis. It’s going to be hard for the courts to handle it. The judges are required to advance those cases on their calendar. But if there are too many of them, they’re not going to be able to so I we’re going see evictions move very slowly. I think we’re going to see judges being more flexible than they typically are maybe deciding that they will then I really supposed to do this, but it has happened before, so I just have this gray. to say oh, well, the law abhors a forfeiture the lease is reinstated. As long as the tenant pays all the arrears by such and such a date not likely and I don’t think supported by law, but it has happened, and judges may do that don’t Bank on that. But the bottom line is it’s a process the landlord files the eviction you have five days to file an answer save your money so you can hire an attorney to defend you may be able to spend more time in position than you thought and a good idea by the way, also Is as soon as it’s possible try to find someplace else to go before the eviction shows up in the court records because if a prospective landlord finds that in the in the court records, they’re going to be much less likely to enter into a lease with a prospective tenant, and you don’t want to go through an eviction. You don’t want to challenge a landlord to say. Hey evict me. It’s an ugly process. It’s a really ugly process and I don’t think landlords take pleasure in it and I know that tenants don’t like the BSO showing up and Sheriff showing up throwing their stuff out. I you know, it’s ugly and if their kids involved, you don’t want to go down that road and oh, I’m Jonathan. That’s an interesting point you raised about the sheriff not only is the court process a process where you have an opportunity to defend yourself and there are defenses that are available like impossibility of performance force majeure if it’s in your lease, you might have a defense based on Is your frustration of purpose that there different legal doctrines that can be used as defenses, but when everything goes all the way around if you ultimately lose the case and a writ of possession gets issued. Now, there’s another process the sheriff’s office is going to be severely backed up with evictions and it might not be within a week or two that an eviction is carried out. It could take months and the sheriff might not be willing to proceed diligently because they might feel a lot of sympathy for people in that scenario because of this lockdown. So, I just want people to rest assured no one’s going to be evicted anytime soon. They’re going to have plenty of time to Cults consult an attorney understand their rights and defend themselves and hopefully stay in possession as long as possible. So, the biggest takeaway if I can sum up your three points is you’ve got to be proactive. You can’t just be a passive passenger on this and see what happens. You’ve got to get in front and take Care of your own needs of keeping a roof over your head communication is key David. I know a lot of attorneys you and I walk in some similar circles if someone is struggling with rent, they may not see the possibility of even calling an attorney to review their mortgage. You said maybe there’s a force majeure Clause leases are legal documents. I’m a layperson now, I’m already under ER armed right. I’m ill, how does someone get help from an attorney if I don’t worry about paying the rent. Ryan well, that’s true. I think a lot people have that conception that hey I can’t pay my rent. I can’t pay a lawyer either but I’m very happy to say that I’m giving free consultations now. And I’m sure plenty of my colleagues are giving free consultations now and even ones that are charging a fee for a consult. It’s not going to be more than a couple of hundred dollars. So, for people who can’t pay the rent, but they come up with a couple hundred dollars or if they’re lucky and they can find an attorney like my firm that will give a free consult. That’s not something they’re going to need to worry about they’re going to be able to talk to somebody. Okay, good to know well to know and I thank you and your colleagues who were out there offering free consultations for people. I know that you’re very high tech your able to do web conferences. In addition to phone calls with people can take a picture of their lease and just email it to your business is going and I know a lot of attorneys I’ve many of them as clients. They’ve shifted to an online format and they are trying to help as many people as they can and on behalf of the community. I thank you and your colleagues for doing that David. We are out of time. I appreciate very much. This is fantastic information. And if you’re watching this outside of Florida outside of South Florida know that you have resources in your state as well. And I’m sure if you check the bar association where you live look on social media, you’ll find attorneys like David who are willing to certainly have a call with you and explain to you what your options are. Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure Jonathan. Thank you.