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Landlords taking mixed approach to current crisis

Some landlords in The Bahamas still expect tenants to pay rent despite the fact that many people have been laid off from work due to the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

They argue that landlords still have responsibilities to meet during this time.

“If I give consideration for them, who gives for me?” asked Domonica Thompson.

“I’m a single mother with three dependents [and] my family comes first.”

Thompson said that so far, the mass layoffs have not presented a challenge for collecting rent.

However, with a current tenant who works in law enforcement about to be deployed, Thompson also said she is concerned about whether potential new tenants would be able to afford the payments.

“It’s not affecting me at this moment [but] I don’t know how it will be at the end of next month because one of my tenants is being deployed to another island,” Thompson said.

She added, “He has given me notice that he would be leaving; however, I have others on standby.

“My only fear is whether they will be able to keep up with the payments.”

With a number of businesses ordered to close under emergency lockdown measures, and the tourism industry at a standstill, many Bahamians have found themselves unemployed in recent weeks.

There were long lines outside The National Insurance Board last week as its director, Dr. Nicola Virgil-Rolle, said it is preparing to provide benefits for at least 18,000 people.

The Department of Social Services, meanwhile, has received over 1,000 applications for assistance in the last week, according to Minister of Social Services Frankie Campbell.

Despite this, Thompson said she is still receiving a lot of interest from potential renters, who are still being asked to pay the standard first and last months’ rent along with a security deposit.

“I have no choice but to ask for first and last and security simply because my whole salary covers my mortgage,” Thompson said.

“So, I can’t go without asking; otherwise I can’t pay other bills.”

Raquel Gibson-Ferguson also made a similar point, but stressed that both landlords and tenants should be considerate of one another especially in the face of all the uncertainty brought about by COVID-19.

“As a landlord for almost 20 years, I’ve been faced with many situations,” Gibson-Ferguson told The Nassau Guardian.

“Yes, we have an obligation to the banks but we must also be able to hold our own at least two to three months should we lose tenants.

“In light of everything happening, we must be compassionate – both landlords and tenants.”

Gibson-Ferguson suggested that tenants who might not be able to afford rent after being laid off should be upfront and speak to their landlord about an arrangement.

“As a landlord, if possible, request half of the rent,” she suggested.

“You, as the tenant, be upfront and call your landlord and explain your work pay situation.

“Yes, banks are working with persons with loans, but if you, the tenant, don’t be mature about it, I wouldn’t know how to make my move.

“At the end of the day, you don’t have to be my tenant.”

Gibson-Ferguson added, “It’s all about being compassionate and remembering what you make happen for others, God makes happen for you.”

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