Challenges for the Furloughed Individual: A Housing Perspective
I just got off the phone with a national housing news reporter. They wanted to know the types of calls we at Oppenheim Law have been fielding from employees who have been furloughed by the unprecedented government shutdown; and the kind of advice we have been giving these individuals. Although I could only speak in generalities under the attorney-client privilege, I could still share some information along with the advice I have imparted to numerous clients in the unfortunate predicament of having been furloughed.
That 800,000 individuals are effectively pawns on a three-dimensional international chess set is an appalling reality. These individuals are not receiving a salary, or any reprieve from their financial obligations. Instead they are experiencing dramatic diminutions in income, growing debts and extreme anxiety. From a housing perspective, we have been seeing the following:
- Tenant Issues. Individuals who are behind on monthly rental obligations and as a result, are living in fear of eviction by their respective landlords. The first and best suggestion is to talk to your landlord and see if they are sympathetic to your predicament. We also recommend making a partial payment to the landlord, if at all possible. To facilitate these partial payments, we suggest that individuals look into acquiring some form of part time work, such as substitute teaching, tutoring, driving (for Lyft or Uber), or doing temporary office work in order to get by, and to show that you are not just home watching Netflix. If a landlord is foolish enough to bring an eviction action, there are a number of things that can legally be done to protect the interest of the tenant. Some of the recommended actions serve to prolong the matter and delay the eviction process which in turn, provides extra time and breathing room for the affected individual. If necessary, filing bankruptcy may also provide grounds for avoiding eviction under certain circumstances.
- Mortgage Issues. Many are going to start falling behind on their mortgage payments. We advise those individuals speak to their lenders as soon as possible. We suggest working out deferred payment plans like those typically used by banks in the aftermath of a destructive hurricane season. After Hurricane Irma, the last hurricane to hit Florida, many were able to defer their mortgage payments for up to 6 months. Unfortunately, some people did not get caught up and back on track. Some still ended up facing mortgage foreclosures which we, of course, were retained to defend.
- Homebuyer Issues. We also have those individuals on the brink of purchasing a home but because of the change in financial circumstances, are no longer able to close on the purchase. Under those circumstances, we would try extending the closing date; or triggering force majeure or extenuating circumstances to allow for an extension until the individual returns to work. The partial government shutdown will also adversely affect VA loans and other FHA loans which as a result, may not be approved at all, or as quickly as they have been in the past, therefore delaying the closing process. Again, we have to work with all the parties involved to get the necessary contractual extensions.
- HUD Issues. Finally, there are those situations where HUD is not issuing housing vouchers for Section 8 housing, and rent is not being paid by the government on behalf of certain individuals. Under these circumstances, where landlords themselves have their own mortgage obligations to pay, we also recommend negotiating extended terms between the landlord and their lenders.
As always, our firm is here to provide the necessary assistance and guidance to those affected by this crisis. As we previously announced, we are tailoring our own retainers and payment schedules, and deferring payment deadlines to accommodate government employees affected by the government shutdown, until such time that they are back at work again. We at Oppenheim Law believe it’s the least we can do under these trying circumstances, and we certainly hope that other law firms around the country will follow suit in one way or another.
From the trenches,
Roy D. Oppenheim