The Interim President of the Montana Landlords Association says when Governor Steve Bullock’s directive prohibiting evictions during Covid-19 expires next week, both landlords and tenants are going to want to pay attention to their legal rights.
But one Montana woman says just finding that information is nearly impossible.
“I think there needs to be some changes… information should be readily available for one, if this happens who you call to get some help,” says Autumn Spivey. “There’s really nothing. I haven’t really been helped.”
Spivey works as a bartender in Billings. When Coronavirus hit, she was out of work and unable to pay her rent for April.
She says she was transparent with her landlord, did all the right things, contacted everyone she needed to while she waited for unemployment and her stimulus check. But what got missed in that communication was halting the automatic withdrawals from her bank account. And when she couldn’t pay, the fees started.
“It wasn’t a huge amount of money. Here’s the problem… I just felt like during it I was being kicked while I was down, because the fact of the matter is on the 13th I received my unemployment and the check was in the mail the next day.”
In total, Autumn was charged $120 from the bank, the leasing company based out of California, and her property managers.
“So then these big corporations profited? A bank that’s getting bailed out is going to make money off of late fees during Covid-19? When you’re not making late fees off of me for rent ever before? That’s… it’s just not right.”
According to John Sinrud, the Interim President of the Montana Landlord’s Association, the confusion and frustration is only going to get worse.
Starting May 25th, the Governor’s directive to halt evictions for those who don’t pay rent expires.
At that time, renters who do not live in federally-assisted living facilities are required to pay any unpaid rent from the past three months.
If they don’t, landlords can issue a contract termination notice. Renters then have three days to respond. From there, it goes to the courts, and it’s up to a judge to decide if a tenant can be evicted or not.
Sinrud says in short, it’s going to get messy, our court system is going to be inundated with cases, and landlords across the state still need to meet their mortgage payments.
Meanwhile for many tenants, the damage has already been done.
“I feel like I did everything I could to stay in contact with them, two phone calls, emails, and this still took place,” says Autumn.
Earlier this week in a press conference, we asked the Governor about resources available for landlords and renters come next week. He pointed us to the Business Stabilization Grant Program, which provides financial assistance to vulnerable populations, those who have lost their job, and those struggling to pay their rent or mortgage. To get that money you must fill out an application through the Department of Commerce; you can find that application here.