The relationship between landlord and tenant can change during a crisis. Renters who once paid on time may be facing job loss or unexpected health expenses. Landlords may be facing additional financial pressure if multiple tenants are unable to pay rent.

The legal system exists to communicate expectations of both parties. In April 2020, the California Judicial Council published new rules to suspend evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 pandemic. The expectation is that those in financial distress are not in danger of losing their place of residence during this crisis.

How can landlords and tenants work together to find a solution?

If you haven’t already, reach out by email or mail.

Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, you can take the lead and extend the first olive branch. As a tenant, you can apprise the landlord of your situation and inquire on their wellbeing; for the landlord, you can remind your tenant of the long-term relationship you have enjoyed to date. Bringing in the human element and shared history can help make a difficult situation easier.

Share information about available resources.

Resources may vary from city to city. Check each city’s website for the most up-to-date information. We have researched the cities in San Diego county including:  CarlsbadChula VistaEncinitasImperial BeachLa MesaNational CityOceansideSan Marcos, and Santee. For additional localities in California, visit the CAA website for the Coronavirus Resources. If you know of local resources, share that information with your network to make sure that as many people can get assistance as possible.

Communicate openly and clearly about what is offered and what is expected.

The important thing to remember is to keep communication lines open and put any agreements you reach into writing. Avoid overextending yourself by promising more than is reasonable or warranted in the situation. For example, Dax Shephard and Kristen Bell waived April’s rent for their tenants in the Los Angeles buildings the couple own. This is incredibly generous but may not be possible for the average landlord who relies on rental income to pay property taxes, insurance, and maintenance.

Remain as flexible as possible and honor your commitments as you are able. For tenants, that may mean paying a portion of the expected rent; for landlords, that may mean reaching out to apply for assistance through their mortgage lender. The ability of landlords and tenants to ‘juggle and struggle’ together will depend on how deep their pockets are, the funds they have in reserve, and the availability of government bailout funds, forbearance, and payment plans.

Read more about the California Eviction Moratorium and my answers to FAQ I have received from both landlord and tenant clients in my recent blog post.

Shanna Welsh-Levin is a California Real Estate Attorney who assists Realtors®, investors, and homeowners with real estate sale transactions and litigation. She authored legislation that became the California short sale anti-deficiency statute, Cal. Code of Civil Procedure §580e. Her firm, So. Cal. Realty Law, resolves real estate disputes and protects real estate investments.  Services also include managing risk for real estate brokers and preventing future liability.