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Renters, landlords seek relief during coronavirus economic tailspin

With coronavirus inflicting pain on both renters and landlords, both sides are seeking government relief.

MINNEAPOLIS — A self-employed hairdresser said she's the "most worried I have ever been." A healthcare worker deemed herself "literally one paycheck away" from missing rent. A woman whose husband has health problems fretted that she "might get booted."

Renters across the Twin Cities, in response to a KARE 11 Facebook post on Wednesday, pleaded for relief as the novel coronavirus continues to upend the American economy. Some of the posters lost minimum-wage jobs and no longer have an income; others already lived paycheck-to-paycheck before the pandemic but now find themselves in even more of a scramble. And on the flip side, landlords vowed to help their struggling tenants, but they harbored their own concerns about paying property taxes and insurance premiums.

All of it adds up to an economic catastrophe. Federal, state and local governments have taken some initial action this week to ease the burden on both renters and owners. Measures include the following:

-- Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter asked their local sheriff's offices for leniency on evictions

-- The state court system suspended housing court hearings, with limited exceptions, for two weeks

-- DFL state representative Michael Howard proposed a freeze on evictions during public health emergencies

-- The Trump administration halted both evictions and foreclosures for the next 60 days, but the rule applies only to mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration

-- The Small Business Administration is working with states on a disaster relief program

Amy Brace, the owner of Amy's Cupcake Shoppe in Hopkins, has filed an application for relief from the SBA. After a strong January and February, plummeting revenue in March has placed her in a precarious financial position as a renter. 

"If it continues for a month, I think we'll be OK," Brace said. "If it continues for months, then, I think we'll have a really hard time."

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Many property owners, meanwhile, are pushing state and federal governments for their own relief packages. 

Sam Stiele, who owns a mix of retail, commercial and residential properties in the West Metro, said he anticipates that many landlords will be concerned about upcoming property taxes due on May 15th. 

"Everything I've heard online and on TV has been about helping renters and people out with homes with and mortgages," Stiele said. "What I'm not hearing is anything for the business owner, anything for the small landlord who still has to pay their insurance premiums, still has to pay certain utilities, still has to pay property taxes."

The Minnesota Multi-Housing Association, which represents apartment managers and developers, said in a statement that residents should "talk to their property manager and owner about any payment related issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are monitoring the state and federal initiatives closely and will continue to offer our guidance to ensure stable and safe rental housing throughout Minnesota for residents and property owners."

Stiele said he sympathizes with the plight of his renters, and he promised he would do everything in his power to work with them if they encounter issues in the coming months. 

"Everybody's just kind of in the same boat. We all want the same thing," Stiele said. "We want to find a light at the end of the tunnel."

KARE 11’s coverage of the coronavirus is rooted in Facts, not Fear. Visit kare11.com/coronavirus for comprehensive coverage, find out what you need to know about the Midwest specifically, learn more about the symptoms, and keep tabs on the cases around the world here. Have a question? Text it to us at 763-797-7215. And get the latest coronavirus updates sent right to your inbox every morning. Subscribe to the KARE 11 Sunrise newsletter here. Help local families in need: www.kare11.com/give11.