Gary Zaremba says he tries to direct struggling tenants to sources of extra help. (AP)

Gary Zaremba says he tries to direct struggling tenants to sources of extra help. (AP)

Signs that read “No Job No Rent” hang from an apartment building in northwest Washington state. Many renters lost jobs due to the pandemic. They struggle to pay rent. (AP)

Signs that read “No Job No Rent” hang from an apartment building in northwest Washington state. Many renters lost jobs due to the pandemic. They struggle to pay rent. (AP)

Shad Elia poses outside one of his properties as tenant Krystal Dingler walks her dog. Mr. Elia says hard-hit tenants are falling behind on their payments. He wonders how much longer his lenders will cut him slack. (AP)

Shad Elia poses outside one of his properties as tenant Krystal Dingler walks her dog. Mr. Elia says hard-hit tenants are falling behind on their payments. He wonders how much longer his lenders will cut him slack. (AP)

Jeff Lello has been living in his van in Orlando, Florida, since being laid off due to the coronavirus pandemic. (AP)

Jeff Lello has been living in his van in Orlando, Florida, since being laid off due to the coronavirus pandemic. (AP)

Gary Zaremba comes down a ladder from the roof of a house he oversees. (AP)

Gary Zaremba comes down a ladder from the roof of a house he oversees. (AP)

Landlords in a Pinch

Posted: January 1, 2021

The sink drips. The tub leaks. The refrigerator breaks. Who must fix them? In a rental situation, the landlord does—and this year, it’s not easy.

A landlord owns a house or apartment and lets someone else live there for money. The landlord uses rent money to pay for the drippy sink, the leaky tub, and the broken fridge. Many times, the landlord also owes money to a bank too. That’s because he or she borrowed money (in an agreement called a mortgage) to buy the property. But because of the pandemic, many people have lost work. They can’t pay their rent. They still need a place to live. What’s a landlord to do?

Some landlords try to work with their tenants. They say, “We know times are hard. You can pay your rent later when things get better.” But that’s costly. Shad Elia owns apartments near Boston, Massachusetts. His renters are falling behind on payments. But Mr. Elia still has to pay for the homes his renters live in. “We still have a mortgage,” he says. “We still have expenses on these properties.”

Owners of other kinds of properties feel the squeeze too. You’ve probably been to a shopping mall. But do you ever think about the person who owns the mall? That person pays each month for that property. The bills keep coming—even if shoppers don’t.

Gary Zaremba owns and manages 350 apartments in Dayton, Ohio. Many of his tenants work in restaurants and stores.

Mr. Zaremba worries: What if more restaurants shut down? What if more tenants can’t pay rent? How will he pay property taxes? How will he fix things like broken windows or leaky plumbing? Loving others and meeting obligations (promises to be kept) can become a difficult balance.

Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. — Romans 13:7