Back in March, we spoke with a renter, a landlord, and a lender about the domino effect the coronavirus outbreak was having on Michigan's residential rental market. Now, with only a few sectors of the economy going back online, rent coming due, and the governor's eviction ban set to end this month, we decided to check back in on what's happened since the lockdown began.
Kristal Michal-Brasseur is a student at Wayne State University studying to be an English teacher. Before Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered bars and restaurants to close dine-in services, she was a waiter at the Monarch Club, a high-end bar in the Brush Park area of Detroit.
Michal-Brasseur said that she has been able to file with the state for unemployment. When we spoke with her in March, Michal-Brasseur was worried that the weekly $200 she expected to receive would not be enough to pay her bills. Her building managers had not offered any flexibility on rent payments. Now, she said she's feeling more comfortable after qualifying for an extra $600 a week through the federal CARES Act.
“Because I don't have children except for my cats and I live in a very cheap, small studio apartment, I'm able to stay pretty comfortable and afloat right now,” Michal-Brasseur said. “But I know a lot of other people who are in my scenario who don't have the same situations going on and aren't anywhere close to feeling secure like I do."
Owen Lee is the co-owner and CEO of Success Mortgage Partners in Plymouth, Michigan. In March, he said it was very important for property owners to be up front with their lenders about mortgage payments. With the passing of the CARES Act, Lee said communication between property owners and lenders is still key—especially when it comes to mortgage forbearance.
While the legislation allows those affected by COVID-19 to gain forbearance between three and 12 months, Lee said that many people do not understand that lenders will not automatically register missed payments as forbearance.
“If you just don't make your payment, the rules are the same. They're not gonna assume forbearance, they're gonna assume that you're in default,” Lee said. “They're going to report that reality to the credit bureaus, and it will significantly harm your credit."
Andre Watson owns several rental properties in Detroit. The stay at home order meant that some of his tenants have lost their jobs. Watson said he is doing his best to balance the financial challenges those tenants might be facing and the need to pay his own bills. He started by reaching out to his lenders to see if there was any flexibility with the schedules of payments on his properties.
"I figured I would try to grab that comfort of knowing that I could have some level of reprieve, and then that could translate to the tenant and give them a buffer as well," Watson said.
One of Watson’s biggest concerns right now is when we’ll return to a sense of normalcy, and what that new normal might look like. He said that the virus has magnified social and economic inequalities, particularly for the African-American community. According to Watson, now is the time for Americans to choose to do better.
“If you see an opportunity for correction, challenge yourself not to revert back to a comfortable reaction, but choose to learn from the experience,” Watson urged. “I think it would be a tragedy if we only went back to how we were pre-coronavirus.”
This post was written by Stateside production assistant Lia Baldori.