By David Gill
Alan Hammer is not only a commercial real estate attorney with nearly 50 years of experience, but a self-described “hands-on” apartment operator in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Simply put, he’s all too familiar with the dilemma that landlords in the region will face on the first of the month and beyond, with moratoriums on evictions during the coronavirus crisis. Those issues go beyond the potential delay in income from their tenants, Hammer said, as there is also the matter of property tax payments owed to municipalities and the probable delay in payments by landlords to their lending institutions.
“I’m very nervous,” said Hammer, a member of Brach Eichler LLC. Notably, both New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have decreed that landlords cannot evict tenants who cannot pay their rent as they weather the economic fallout of COVID-19.
“My big fear is people will see [the statements from the governors] and not pay the rent and then they won’t pay it next month,” said Hammer, who is based in Roseland. “This will be a big problem, especially in low-income areas.
“I would never suggest to a tenant that if it’s a choice between paying your rent and feeding your children, pay your rent,” he added. “What we are saying is if you can pay your rents, you should, but we’re not dispossessing anyone.”
Recently, the rents on some of Hammer’s own properties have been increased, but he said he has written to the tenants at those properties to tell them to ignore those increases. He has also advised his landlord clients to keep their lending institutions informed.
“Speak to your lender, find out what they expect from you, see if you can pay only interest for now,” he said. “Any lender will work with you — if you tell them tenants are not paying rents, they’ll let you postpone it. This is what I tell my clients and I have called my lenders to tell them as well.”
Dealing with the situation, Hammer added, has become a 24-7 job. As to what lies ahead, after April 1, he said, “We’ll know better in a couple of weeks. We’re waiting to see.”