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Your Lease and COVID-19

The coronavirus outbreak has turned life upside down for tenants across the U.S.—here’s what you need to know about navigating the rental process during this unprecedented time.

In the span of just a few months, the spread of COVID-19 has drastically altered the way we live. Right now, it feels like there are more questions than answers. For renters, these questions feel particularly urgent: What if I can’t afford rent? Can my landlord evict me? What happens if my lease is up for renewal during the pandemic?

Luckily, we know a lot about rental law at Caretaker. Browse this section for resources on paying rent, eviction protections, finding a new place, and even moving during the crisis. Below are some quick answers to a few of the biggest coronavirus-related questions facing tenants right now.

I lost my job and can’t pay rent. What should I do?

You should start by talking with your landlord. A lot of professional landlord organizations are advising their members to negotiate with tenants. Your landlord may be willing to defer your rent for several months, or offer a short-term discount. Or, depending on your state laws, your landlord may be able to convert your security deposit into rent.

Can my landlord evict me?

Even if your landlord isn’t willing to work with you on a payment plan, you may still be protected from eviction if you can’t pay rent during the pandemic. Many states and cities have banned evictions until the emergency is over or with specific deadlines.

Can I break my lease because of COVID-19?

There are no laws that allow you to automatically break your lease because of the effects of COVID-19. That said, you can always try talking to your landlord and laying out the situation. There’s a chance they might sympathize and let you out of your lease for a small fee. But even if you’re dealing with an inflexible landlord, you should understand how the law protects you if you have to move out early.

My lease is about to expire. What should I do?

First things first: you don’t have to sign a new year-long lease. In an unpredictable economic climate, your landlord probably doesn’t want to hunt for a new tenant. Use that leverage to negotiate for a month-to-month lease or a shorter fixed-term lease.

If you’re sure you want to stay for another year, you can also angle for a rent reduction. Rent prices have dropped across the country—you may be able to use this to your advantage as you get ready to renew your lease.

On the other hand, if you’re sure you want to leave, you may be wondering if it’s even legal for you to move under a shelter-in-place order. Although every order is different, most consider moving companies an essential service and are allowing them to operate during this time.

Are in-person viewings still allowed?

Yes but that doesn't mean they're completely safe. We're keeping our guidance on finding a new home while social distancing up to date. You can ask landlords directly if they will offer contactless viewings and ask them to do so if they aren't.

How Caretaker can help

Caretaker for leaseholders was created to make it easy for people to get out of their lease early without a lot of extra work or fees. Your landlord is probably required to accept your replacement tenant in some way as long as they're qualified, so the first thing our team would do if you sign up is speak with them on your behalf to make sure you'll be able to leave with a good reference.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.