LACONIA — Some of the rent checks due Wednesday won’t be coming in anytime soon.
Thousands of New Hampshire residents have lost their jobs at bars, restaurant dining rooms and businesses ordered closed as non-essential during the COVID-19 pandemic.
An emergency order by Gov. Chris Sununu prohibits landlords from evicting tenants.
Sheri Minor, president of DRM Corp., said one of her tenants approached her recently to say she was leaving her job at Dunkin’ Donuts out of concern about the potential for catching the virus from a customer.
“She said she couldn’t mentally take it and will have to stop work,” Minor said. “She told me she would give me what she could from unemployment.
“I said, ‘I agree 100 percent, your health is my first priority. I get it and we will work on the difference on the back end.’
“Look at me, I’m sitting here in my locked up office. Handling mail, rent, money, even leaving the house is causing me great anxiety.”
Minor said there’s only been a couple discussions so far with tenants expressing concern about paying the rent. It’s still early, and many rely on disability benefits, Social Security or retirement money that won’t be affected by the pandemic.
Others may be able to take advantage of the enhanced unemployment compensation available through federal funding, including an additional $600 per week for all individuals filing in New Hampshire until July 31. It also provides an additional 13 weeks of eligibility on top of the existing 26 weeks.
Minor does have concern that the moratorium on evictions could cause some people to falsely believe that they won’t have to eventually catch up on back rent when the emergency order is lifted.
“If you can, you should pay, you could still eventually be evicted,” Minor said.
Minor, whose company has 250 rentals in its portfolio, including mobile homes, said larger firms can absorb some losses. Many small landlords rent out a couple units as a sidelight and also wouldn't be badly harmed.
It is the medium-sized landlords who are most vulnerable to a loss of rental income, she said. They may just be scraping by and have large expenses.
David Gilbert, another landlord, said one tenant told him the factory where he works may be shutting down.
“He’s been a tenant a long time. I told him, the government is going to take care of anybody with unemployment and stimulus checks, and that he’s been a good tenant of mine and that I trust him,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert said he also occasionally has frustrating tenants.
He was in the process of evicting someone for nonpayment, when the courts shut down because of the pandemic.
“People are taking advantage of this. I can’t evict them. They work and don’t pay me.”
Carmen Lorentz is executive director of Lakes Region Community Developers, which has 365 apartment units.
“We are very concerned about nonpayment of rent because our properties operate at pretty thin margins,” she said.
“Our goal over the next couple of weeks is to call every tenant who doesn’t make rent April 1 to learn more about their situation and try to connect them with resources to help them. The governor’s executive order halts all eviction proceedings during this crisis so no one will be evicted if they’ve lost work income due to COVID-19.
“But what tenants need to understand is that past due rent will accrue during this time. We are going to great lengths to help people find resources to pay down as much past due rent as possible during this crisis so they are not in a big hole at the end of this and so our properties can replenish reserves that we’ve had to use up during the crisis.”