The day was March 16, 2020. I will always remember it as the day the pandemic officially started. It was my son’s eighth birthday and the first day school turned into remote learning. For the kids’ birthdays they bring a book into the classroom to read and my son wrote and illustrated his own story. He was beyond excited to share it with his classmates. He wears a uniform to school, but he had a pass to “dress down” so in addition to the story he had his outfit (a football jersey) all picked out. Instead of going to school, he wore his football jersey and we found one of the few nail salons that were still operating and got pedicures and to-go food for dinner. I was trying to make the best of the day for my little guy. He read me his story at some point in the day and I recall not really hearing him because inside I was scared to death.
The days grew long and very dark despite the constant sunshine we were fortunate to have. My continuous (and dangerous) scroll on Facebook gave me more and more anxiety. I never watch tv, ever, but found myself glued to our President speak every night on the virus. I was doubting, for the first time in the 15 years of owning rental property, being a landlord.
I had many verbal and text conversations with colleagues planning what my response was going to be to my tenants if they said they could not pay rent. I was fixated on social media and CNN interviewing people hosting rent strikes, so I was expecting the worst. Apartment complex tenants around the country were telling landlords they were not paying. My heart was beating out of my chest most hours of the day.
I quickly learned what a government backed loan was and the ins and outs of Freddie Mac and Fanny May. I also knew that my loans are not federally backed loans so the Cares Act and new “laws” that were being stated by the Governor did not apply to me and my tenants; however, (tenants) did not know that and I certainly did not think that would go over well if I tried to explain.
I kept my sanity by listening to podcasts and reading everything I could find on what other landlords (local and not local) were doing and how they were handling the current situation. I found there were a lot of landlords in the same boat. Many of my peers in the industry are male and we all know that most men handle stress and discomfort quite different than us women. The calm and rational male approach set me at ease. I knew what was happening was out of my control and I knew I had to keep emotion out of my dealings to some degree. The only thing I could do was communicate with my tenants and that is what I did and continue to do. Thankfully, that is not unusual for me, so the communication is comfortable and natural.
For the most part I have had success in collecting rents. There is something to be said for the tenant that is up front with what is going on verses the tenant I have to ask what is going on. There is no denying when the rent comes due each month now I feel extreme anxiety of the unknown. I never felt that way before and it is not a pleasant feeling. Digging into savings to keep the loans current because your rents are not being collected on time is not a good feeling as a business or property owner.
I came up with Plan B that I hold in my back pocket. I am ready to put it to use if and when I feel it is necessary. I think being the planner that I am Plan B has always been there to a degree. I am the type of person who thinks of the glass half empty and thinking half full has never come easy to me. I always have an exit or what if plan so I am using that to calm myself most days.
Until then (if then) I carry on despite the uncertainty because I must. Isn’t this what we all are doing?