Property management firm tackles tenant uncertainty with new liaison
With nearly 280,000 unemployment claims filed in Colorado over a four-week stretch ending April 17, the ripple effect on tenants and landlords seems inevitable
With nearly 280,000 unemployment claims filed in Colorado over a four-week stretch ending April 17, the ripple effect on tenants and landlords seems inevitable. Rental prices across much of the state have posed a challenge to many, even before COVID-19 restrictions put hundreds of thousands out of work.
Anticipating the difficulties in the event of prolonged unemployment, one property-management firm designated a liaison specifically to keep communication lines open with tenants facing financial hardship. Denver-based Atlas Real Estate, which manages 3,200 properties, appointed Erika Ojeda-Louvier to the newly created role of resident resources manager in early April. Among her objectives is to steer financially strapped residents to benefits they may qualify for and, if necessary, arrange payment plans.
“Obviously we’re concerned with finding a compassionate way to deal with this outbreak, keeping in mind we want to protect both owners and tenants,” says Ojeda-Louvier, who is fluent in Spanish and English. “We have a high percentage of residents working in food industries and retail, and they have obviously been impacted. The first thing we want to do is keep communications open. We want residents to feel confident in sharing their stories with us. If we have an understanding, looking at this case by case, of what is holding them back or how long it will take this specific family to get back on track, it’s easier for us to work out payment plans and direct them to resources that are available to help them.”
Stories in the media may have led some tenants to believe they’re not responsible for rent. That’s where compassion with directness – and understanding the specific tenant’s predicament – comes in.
Ojeda-Louvier says when she’s told, ‘I heard on the news you cannot evict me,’ it gives her a chance to explain, “‘OK, yes, for now. But you’re still responsible for rent. And here’s how we can help you.’”
Ojeda-Louvier’s role will become more critical if the ranks of the unemployed continue to climb. Like everyone, she hopes for a return to some semblance of normalcy – including normal employment levels.
“Once this pandemic is over, we want to be able to look back and feel confident we did everything in our power to help our community as a whole,” she says. “That’s the main message: We’re in this together.”