Marie Baptiste, a nurse, is caught in a financial bind that just might ruin her.
In a way, her conscientious planning for the future is what is got her in trouble.
You see, Ms. Baptist is a landlord, in a rather small way.
She owns a small rental house in the town of Randolph, Massachusetts.
A recent story in the Boston Globe describes Baptiste’s plight:
A nurse at a hospital in Fall River, she kept her old house when she moved to a newer one several years ago, figuring the rent would help her pay the bills when she retires.
Lately, though, she’s had to pull money out of her retirement savings to cover the mortgage, property taxes, and insurance because her tenant stopped paying rent last fall, Baptiste said, well before the COVID-19 pandemic.
She says the tenant owes her nearly $19,000, but because of a freeze on evictions during the pandemic, there’s nothing she can do about it now. Baptiste’s tenant, who asked that her name not be used, said she stopped paying rent in November because the house had fallen into serious disrepair, including water damage and an infestation of rats. Baptiste disputes those claims, saying the tenant is to blame for most of the problems.
No matter what the reason for the lack of payments, the bills keep piling up.
‘It’s all backwards,” Baptiste said. “You have no way out. I don’t know if I’m going to lose everything I’ve worked so hard for.”
Because of the pandemic, evictions and foreclosures are banned in Massachusetts until mid-October. In some other places, moratoria on evictions are set to expire sooner but will likely be extended.
Though there are exceptions (“I told my unemployed tenant about jobs. He says they don’t pay enough and sits at home smoking weed.”), I assume most tenants would dearly love to go back to work and get their lives back on track, which means paying their rent.
I feel for those who can’t pay make rent payments because they have been laid off through no fault of their own. However, what about people who own property and are dependent upon it to pay their bills?
Hot Air’s Jazz Shaw wonders what the solution might be in a very perceptive post on the coming evictions crisis:
So what’s the solution? As with everything else during this crisis, the only thing that the federal government or the states have come up with is to pick more billions off of the magic money tree and send “free money” to tenants to pay their rent.
The Democrats put another $100B in the second House stimulus bill passed in May, but that legislation still appears stuck and there wasn’t a matching figure in the Senate version. Even if they manage to do that, however, how much longer can the system sustain itself? The government simply can’t afford to keep paying everyone’s bills indefinitely even as far fewer people are working, businesses remain offline and tax revenue is in the tank.
These are not sustainable options. If we could have gotten through this pandemic and back on our feet in a couple of months, the economy would have taken a hit, but we’d have dug our way out. But now people are talking about autumn or even the end of the year. Others don’t even know if we’ll be anywhere close to full operability before next spring. By that point, the well may truly run dry. A better solution is needed, particularly in the rental and real estate sector. But most other aspects of our economy will be facing similar hard choices.
There is already a horrendous amount of damage and the suffering won’t end immediately.
But we can’t talk about re-opening the country in a vacuum, as if there are no trade-offs.
What the coming eviction crisis really underscores is the urgency of getting people back to work as quickly as possible.