The economic uncertainty from the COVID-19 virus has some families wondering if they can pay next month’s rent. And that, in turn, has landlords considering what they will do if they don’t receive that rent.
In metro Atlanta, one property management company is facing pushback for its blunt answer.
The video arrived in tenants’ inboxes last Friday right as President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency. GTL Real Estate CEO Todd Ortscheid told tenants the coronavirus would likely have a big impact locally.
“We know that some of you, unfortunately, might have your hours cut back at work,” Ortscheid said. “Unfortunately, some people might even get laid off.”
Ortscheid said he sympathizes with those people. But then he explained who GTL Real Estate works for. The company manages properties for landlords and it owes them their rent.
“And that means if someone doesn’t pay, we legally are required to enforce the lease, file eviction and try to collect from you,” he said. “So it’s not a heartless thing. It’s just it’s what our clients pay us to do.”
So that tenants won’t find themselves in trouble in April, he advised them to seek assistance with charities now and offered to provide a list of resources. He said tenants could also consider a yard sale or selling off assets.
But the advice from the property management company wasn’t well received. One tenant posted the message that included the video to Facebook. It was shared hundreds of times, sparking outrage.
“Just feels really gross and negligent and just inhumane,” said the tenant, who requested anonymity because she feared retaliation.
Personally, she said her job is stable and she expects to be able to pay rent. But she worried about the stress others might feel –that they might work when they shouldn’t and become sick.
“But also, if you end up actually putting people on the streets, you are not helping with the sort of public health crisis that we have,” she said.
In a statement, GTL Real Estate said its clients are middle-class landlords. It said they could face foreclosure without rent payments.
According to its website, GTL Real Estate manages about 400 residential properties and operates in Georgia and Florida.
For now, eviction hearings in counties, like Fulton and DeKalb, are on hold, as part of a 30-day judicial emergency. That means that families could not be forced out of their homes in that time period.
But property managers still can start the eviction filing process with the courts, which would show up in public records.
Near the end of the video, Ortscheid said tenants should take into consideration the lasting impact of eviction records. Sometimes in background checks, he said, they come across evictions from the 1970s.
“If you’re in a situation where you have bills, and you have to prioritize what you’re paying, don’t pay your cable bill, don’t pay your phone bill, pay your rent,” he said.