Monday, November 28, 2022

Rent is almost due. Most Wilmington-area apartments still silent on reductions or deferments. [Free read]

Stemming Covid-19 has meant shuttering businesses, leaving employees who rent their homes without much protection. (Port City Daily photo / Johanna F. Still)

WILMINGTON — Employees and business owners around the country are being asked to make sacrifices, as efforts to curtail the Covid-19 outbreak have ground the economy to a halt. But for the commercial property rental industry, it seems to be mostly business as usual.

Here are the facts:

State and federal governments have taken some initiatives to help homeowners renegotiate the terms of their mortgages (although homeowners are by no means ‘out of the woods). Many large banks have also announced voluntary efforts to suspend or forgive missed mortgage payments. These banks have a vested interest in seeing their mortgage holders survive financially — missing several monthly payments, or more likely deferring those payments, is probably less of a blow to the banks then having to repossess thousands of homes in an uncertain market.

But for renters, things will almost definitely be tougher.

While some landlords may be working things out with their tenants, when it comes to commercial rental companies, it doesn’t seem like much there’s much wiggle room for renters. And, while North Carolina courts have frozen eviction proceedings through mid-April (an order that could be extended), this won’t stop back rent (or penalties) from accruing.

Apartment complexes have certainly acknowledged Covid-19, restricting amenities, closing gyms, coffee bars, business centers, and other common areas. Many have also closed their offices and asked renters to pay their lease bills using remote systems — but there’s been little talk of adjusting those bills.

Shuttering amenities, closing doors, no change in rent?

Amenities at Hawthorne and Bell properties have been closed, but tenants have apparently not seen a rent deduction.

So, do any Wilmington-area apartments have plans to defer or forgive rent?

Only one, national investment and management company Bell Partners, offered official comment:

“Ahead of April rent payment, Bell Partners has taken several measures to help ease anxiety and potential financial burden for our communities. At Bell-owned properties, we will waive late fees for April as well as credit card fees for processing payments. We are also offering assistance to residents in need on a case-by-case basis. We’ve recommended the same measures to property owners where we serve as a third-party property manager.”

Bell Partners did not comment on whether or not the company would adjust rents to reflect the closure of amenities.

Hawthorne Residential Partners did not return multiple calls and emails (the corporate office is currently closed, with administrative employees working remotely). However, local office managers — many of whom are working from locked offices — indicated that the company had waived online fees for credit card payments. It does not appear that any Hawthorne properties have considered deferring or forgiving rent, according to several managers who declined to speak on the record. Asked if renters in good standing could possibly pay April’s rent in installments once businesses are allowed to reopen, one manager said, “I’d love to. I don’t have the authority to do that. That’s a question for corporate.”

Wilmington-based Tribute properties did not respond to emails requesting comment. However, in an email from the company, sent to a tenant and forwarded to Port City Daily, the company announced it would take the following steps for those who had contracted Covid-19 or been laid off as a result of the outbreak:

  • We will not charge late fees to any residents for April
  • We will not pursue collection or eviction proceedings against any residents in April
  • We will accept partial payments of rent in April

Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at ben@localvoicemedia.com, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001

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