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Property managers say they’re willing to work with tenants during coronavirus outbreak

By Liz Moomey


SALISBURY — Fisher Realty Leasing Manager Ellen Robertson says she’s had several residents come into her office to explain the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak and the possibility on April 1 they may not be able to pay rent.

And with some industries — including restaurants and bars — cutting back hours or closing completely after Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order closing their sit-down service, Robertson said she started working with those residents.

“I can work with people as long as they communicate with me,” Robertson said. “I can work with them on late fees. I can set up a payment plan. I referred all of them to the unemployment office.”

Fisher Realty manages The Courtyard, Forest Village, Salisbury Square, 516 Flats and 132 Flats.

She recommended affected tenants let her know now and not when rent is due at the beginning of next month. 

“At least we can sit down together and say, ‘What can you do? What do you have saved?’,” Robertson said. “We can at least make a plan before it’s due. I would definitely recommend talking to your leasing people now.”

Victor Wallace, president of Wallace Realty, said he is also willing to help tenants. Wallace said the company has taken similar steps in the past and that they plan to evaluate their 220 rental properties, which are mostly commercial, on a case-by-case basis.

“We as landlords understand what’s going on,” Wallace said. “My philosophy has always been I would rather viable tenant survive than have a vacancy and have to go find another one. Other people might want a vacancy so they can get more rent from the next guy.”

At Wallace Realty, workers are going to do whatever they can to help the businesses get to the other side of this, whether it is through rent reduction or rent abatement, Wallace said. He pointed to Mambo Grill, which has been closed for renovations since Jan.1. They can’t open up fully because of the COVID-19 outbreak. He called the restaurant viable and a loved business.

“We go to great lengths and sometimes to great losses hoping and helping where we think there is a viable business,” Wallace said.

Helping tenants, the chief justice of North Carolina on Monday issued an order halting all in-person proceedings, which included evictions. All evictions will not be rescheduled until May 1. 

But Robertson said if someone is not adhering to the payment schedule, they can be evicted. She said tenants “can’t just stay there not paying any rent.” In some cases, she would be willing to let her residents out of their leases. Wallace said there are other reasons to evict people other than non-payments.

The Greater Charlotte Apartment Association gave guidance to owner-operators after the chief justice announcement, which included:

  • Ask residents to contact your leasing teams if they will not be able to make rent and provide resources to residents to supplement their income or seek additional financial resources that may be available in the community
  • Work with residents to pay their rent, whether that is a payment plan or another method.  
  • Remind residents they remain responsible to pay their rent and if they’ve been laid off from their employer, provide resources to them such as unemployment insurance and worker’s compensation.
  • Waive late fees that have accrued in March 2020 or will accrue in the next couple of months.

Property managers are also taking measures to protect their employees and tenants during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Robertson said Fisher Realty is encouraging essential business only. But she hasn’t made a lot of changes. Residents can still make maintenance requests. And the company already does a thorough disinfecting cleaning between residents. 

“In the apartment industry, you got to make sure there’s not bedbugs, just a lot of other threats, that I’m conscious of all the time anyway,” Robertson said. “After my cleaning ladies have been in there, I want it to smell like Clorox, that’s for sure. I’ve always been that way.”

Wallace said his company will begin locking the front door of the office and being by appointment only.

At Woodland Creek Apartments, the office is closed until further notice. The property manager, Phillips Management Group, sent out a notice saying they will only address emergency service requests. Rent payments should be made online or should be paid by check or money order through the rent drop box. Community tours have been suspended.

Westdale, which owns Ashton Woods and Alexander Station, announced their leasing offices will be closed to the public and operating by appointment only. Maintenance staff will be preforming emergency repairs only. Community amenities will be closed, except laundry rooms and mail centers.

Both management groups did not respond to interview requests.


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