Tenant Recently Found Out They Have Cancer

11 Replies | Chicago, Illinois

I have a tenant that recently found out they have cancer and cannot work for at least 6 months because they will be going through chemo. They missed two rent payments because they were waiting on their disability insurance to come in. They have been a tenant for less than a year but have not missed a payment and have otherwise been good tenants. I helped them apply for a rental assistance program and I will probably forgive one months rent to help them out. Her disability insurance did kick in and they did make a rent payment at that time. Just wondering what a good strategy for this would be or if anyone has gone through a similar situation.

Been there done that... You have two options. 

1. Be the hero and prepare yourself for a lot of late/missed rent months. Most people don't have a single dollar in savings so when something big happens their finances go right down the toilet. Also, since you have allowed multiple months of rent to go by without being paid they will not put rent as a top priority for themselves to pay. They will pay their utility bills (and sometimes non-living bills like Netflix and Amazon) before they pay you because they know that you give them months to pay and are 'understanding'.

2. Treat it like a business. Charge your late fees and keep them compounding until they pay rent. If they don't get caught up then do cash-for-keys and get them out. It will only get worse.

Yes, this sounds cold but I have done both option 1 and option 2... and the good feelings from option 1 does not outweigh the suck of having an entire year of cashflow disappear. I always go with option 2 now.

@Jonathan Satizabal you are in for a tough ride here for sure as most tenants won't have a ton of resources beyond their jobs. I would try to get their families information so you can work together with the family as much as possible. I would also start preparing for the worst and you will need their emergency contacts. I had a tenant that passed in one of my buildings a little over a year ago. It was very sad and he was a great tenant/guy. I had the daughter's info as he had been failing and she paid rent for a few months while they cleaned everything out. It could have been much worse if I hadn't had her information! 


@John Warren that's actually a really good point. I had the same situation happen last year with a tenant passing away. He was older and lived on his own. He also had cancer and he got to the point where he couldn't take care of himself. Luckily his sister had contacted me so she would go by to clean up and help him out. She was the one that cleaned out the apartment when he passed away. I don't know what I would have done if she had not been there to help out. 

I don't think this current tenant will get to that point but I know it's something that I will need to stay on top of for the next few months until she can get back to work.

Thanks

@Jonathan Satizabal @Jon Reed is spot on.

You can do a hybrid of his two options though.

Set yourself a number for his option #1 and once its exceeded you aggressively, but empathetically, go to option #2.

You should also have all your ducks in a row for option #2, so you can execute quickly.

It is nice of you to want to help her.  Ask them to check to see what other resources are available.  They should be able to find a cancer support group with will do things like help drive them to appointments and they would also know about other support such as rent.  I'm guessing this person is on their own.

to me this becomes a very personal choice where you have to weight your Options.

IE your own personal financial situation .. 

But next of kin close family is where I would be going if you can get to them and see whats up.

If the whole family has limited resources may not be much help there.

I know when my mom was in the same situation the corporate owners would not cut her an ounce of slack so I paid her rent for years.  her 3 months went 3 years and they were good years for her..

Thank You @Jay Hinrichs , AKA the Legend. I don't mind helping them out and I am pretty confident that they will recover after the Chemotherapy, but I guess you never know.

There is a limit to what is acceptable. I feel that the tenants that pay consistently and take care of their units end up indirectly paying for the tenants that can't or cause more damage and wear on the properties. I think it's my responsibility as the owner/ manager to mitigate the impact that these situations have on the property and the other tenants. Having less income means deferring some maintenance, cutting services and making sure that the rent increases are proactively put into place to cover some of these unanticipated circumstances.

I was thinking of waiving one months rent(it's only 925) and possibly putting them on a payment plan if they need it. In the mean time try to find some services or groups that can help her out. I think that would be the extent of what I am willing to do. Any thoughts?

Originally posted by @Jonathan Satizabal :

Thank You @Jay Hinrichs, AKA the Legend. I don't mind helping them out and I am pretty confident that they will recover after the Chemotherapy, but I guess you never know.

There is a limit to what is acceptable. I feel that the tenants that pay consistently and take care of their units end up indirectly paying for the tenants that can't or cause more damage and wear on the properties. I think it's my responsibility as the owner/ manager to mitigate the impact that these situations have on the property and the other tenants. Having less income means deferring some maintenance, cutting services and making sure that the rent increases are proactively put into place to cover some of these unanticipated circumstances.

I was thinking of waiving one months rent(it's only 925) and possibly putting them on a payment plan if they need it. In the mean time try to find some services or groups that can help her out. I think that would be the extent of what I am willing to do. Any thoughts?

Its what ever you feel right doing and can afford to do..  bottom line.

 

Check and see if there are any local assistance programs available. Especially with Covid, local relief agencies and churches/charities have been trying to help as many people as possible. Start with big agencies like the United Way, your local municipality, bigger churches, etc. You might need to just pass the info along to the tenant and their family/friends, but you can say that you've gone above and beyond in trying to help them out, as well as trying to protect your investment. 

@Dave Poeppelmeier , We did apply for assistance and it looks like it was just approved. I need to wait on the check but it looks like they're going to cover five months of rent. This is some of the money that came from the Covid federal relief program. We might have lucked out, as far as the timing of everything. If everything goes well it will cover her until she is scheduled to go back to work.

I do try to keep up with the rental assistance programs out there because you never know what can happen.

Thank you, for everyone's input.