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COVID recovery and the interface with Government agencies

One hard fact of the COVID-19 pandemic is that we’re not going to be done with it for quite a while. That was just one of the takeaways from “COVID Recovery & Renewal,” an IREM webinar available now on demand.

That was just one of the insights from the presentation, as described by Shannon H. Longino, CPM®, First VP of Asset Management for Truist Community Capital, LLC in Atlanta. The good news is that, as she stated, “We all know our industry, and no two days are the same anyway. So, we have to just continue to improvise and adapt.”

Which isn’t an easy ask in the midst of regulatory mandates that seem to change weekly as the nature of the pandemic shifts and new science is revealed. IREM’s director of Government Affairs, Ted Thurn, has helped keep IREM on the frontlines of those changes, and he gave attendees the latest in those regulatory dictates. This included an update on the recently approved second round of COVID relief. As Thurn pointed out, the bill maintains many of the first-round provisions, such as the Payment Protection Program, and extending unemployment insurance. Thurn also mentioned that the CDC will most likely extend the eviction moratorium past its current deadline of March 31.

The big “but” here is that HUD and local authorities will probably be required to not allow “an overwhelming population to be evicted.” Of course, as Longino and Thurn attested, a vacant apartment serves no one. “Eviction is the last resort,” he said. “A payment plan is better than an empty unit.” But he did call for giving landlords enough flexibility to evict in cases unrelated to COVID, such as safety issues or illegal activity. “That’s where we’re looking for flexibility.”

Reasoned compassion figures heavily in the mix here, with an equal weight to both of those descriptors. “You can waive late fees or legal fees,” said Longino. “I’ll work with my residents and clients to come to a reasonable accommodation to satisfy all parties, the landlord and resident alike.” 

That said, a payment agreement is not the end of the world for any of the involved parties, she continued. And managers can build in protections, such as applying limits on extensions to the agreement.

We’re in it together

What’s become the slogan of the pandemic continues to hold true for IREM members. There are plenty of resources for property managers seeking guidance on a whole range of issues, as well as information that can be shared to help residents out of their specific challenges.

First and foremost among these are Thurn and Longino themselves, the latter of whom is chair of IREM’s National Federal Housing Advisory Board and Task Force. Thurn, of course, is a constant source for members in need of specific guidance on the workings both inside the Beltway and at the state level.  

Plus, members and their stakeholders can also dial 211. The number is a service of the Federal Communications Commission designed, in the words of its website, to help “direct callers to services for, among others, the elderly, the disabled, those who do not speak English, those with a personal crisis, those with limited reading skills, and those who are new to their communities.”

The days of the pandemic seem to be progressing, but, as Longino stated, we're not out of the woods yet. “Things change from day to day,” she said, “and it’s hard to say where we’ll be a year from now.” In the meantime, we all have to continue to monitor legislation and keep adjusting as we go.

The above only begins to scratch the surface of the insights shared in the on-demand course.

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