Before coronavirus struck San Luis Obispo, Tony Bone prepared tacos and burritos to pay rent. 

Now, he is unemployed and does not know if he can afford to pay the $1,100 to $1,200 a month for his Mustang Village apartment, he said. Cal Poly closed certain Campus Dining restaurants, and Bone lost his part-time job at Tú Taco.

“It’s been a decent amount of stress for me,” the computer engineering junior said. “Now, I kind of have to scrounge for some other ways of getting money.” 

Bone is depending on financial aid and savings to carry him through August, the end of his lease, and he applied to remote computer programming jobs to supplement his income, he said. 

Even though he is gathering the money, he is not required to pay rent this month.

Mustang Village apartment tenants can delay rent payments without being charged a late fee, an apartment management wrote in an email to Bone.

Bone said he is thankful for the extra time to organize his finances, but he said he plans to ask for a 25 to 50 percent rent reduction and a removal of utility fees, as he left the apartment to stay with his family in Los Angeles. 

“The anxiety of having to pay rent on a place that I’m not physically at — that was definitely bearing down on me,” Bone said. “It would just be a huge weight off my shoulders.”

“The anxiety of having to pay rent on a place that I’m not physically at — that was definitely bearing down on me,” Bone said.

If Bone cannot pay rent in May because temporary closures due to COVID-19 reduced his income, he cannot legally be evicted. 

San Luis Obispo County residents are protected from being evicted for unpaid rent if COVID-19 damaged their finances, a county executive order read. 

Though tenants can delay paying their rent for now, they will owe unpaid rent six months after the local emergency ends May 31 unless cancelled or extended, according to a frequently asked questions document from the San Luis Obispo Legal Assistance Foundation

When the local emergency ends, landlords cannot evict tenants for unpaid rent that was due during the emergency, but landlords can sue the tenant for rent in small claims court, the document read. 

Tenants must notify their landlord in writing that they cannot pay rent due to COVID-19 related financial hardship within 30 days after their rent is due to protect themselves from eviction when the emergency order is lifted, the document read. The San Luis Obispo Legal Assistance Foundation created a letter template that tenants can complete and send to their landlord. 

Though tenants may celebrate the order, some landlords may suffer from the loss in income when tenants do not pay rent.

Some landlords, especially individuals who rent a single house or apartment complex, cannot afford to reduce rent, property manager from Real Property Management Jerry McLaughlin said. 

Landlords use rent to pay the property’s mortgage, property tax and insurance in addition to their personal bills, he said. 

“Not all owners own their property free and clear,” McLaughlin said. “This is devastating and it’s hurting both sides.” 

One of McLaughlin’s clients uses rent from their property to pay for the medical expenses of their elderly parent, he said. 

“They’re literally in tears,” McLaughlin said. “They don’t know what to do, they can’t get help anywhere, and they’re in a very tough situation.”

Real Property Management asked tenants to fill out a rent deferral application if they are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19. If a tenant requests a rent deferral, McLaughlin asks their landlord what types of rent relief they can afford to provide. 

“Every situation is different,” McLaughlin said. “Every tenant, every owner has a different situation, so we’re going case by case.”

A handful of landlords could afford to reduce rent. Others could offer deferred rent, which means that the tenant can delay paying their rent, but the tenant will owe the rent eventually. Other landlords established payment plans, so tenants pay a portion of their rent each month until they pay it off, McLaughlin said. 

Biology junior Tara Faraji rents an apartment managed by McLaughlin’s company, Real Property Management. 

Faraji’s father lost his job as a quality control engineer due to coronavirus. She asked for a rent reduction, but Real Property Management could only offer her a rent deferral, she said. 

“The issue is, I don’t foresee any type of increase in income in the future because my dad is almost 70 now,” Faraji said. “He’s well past the age of hiring for his field and in the age of retirement, so the possibility that he would get rehired is extremely slim.”

Earlier this year, Faraji’s mother, an emergency room nurse, worked 72 hours a week. Before COVID-19 hit Chicago, the Faraji family’s finances stabilized, and Faraji’s mother was able to work fewer hours. 

Now that her father lost his job, her mother may need to return to 72-hour work weeks, she said.

“It’s not a make-it-or-break-it situation for my family,” Faraji said. “We’re not on the brink of going into poverty or not if we have a [rent] break, but it does mean a couple of nights that my mom can stay home.”

“We’re not on the brink of going into poverty or not if we have a [rent] break, but it does mean a couple of nights that my mom can stay home,” Faraji said.

Faraji’s father owns and rents a house, but even though he lost his job and would benefit from the extra income, he is not requiring his tenants to pay rent.

“I think there’s a big disparity between the income of someone who owns multiple properties, and someone who is paying to live there,” Faraji said. “I think, nine times out of ten, you’re going to find that the income of these property owners is much higher than those tenants who live there.” 

Update May 16: Tony Bone recovered financially and will be able to pay off his rent, he said. 

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