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UPDATED: The Impact of COVID-19 on Landlord-Resident Relationships UPDATED: The Impact of COVID-19 on Landlord-Resident Relationships

UPDATED: The Impact of COVID-19 on Landlord-Resident Relationships

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person between people in close contact (within about 6 feet) or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching his or her own mouth, nose or eyes. Apartment communities and other shared living spaces are at risk of an infected resident or employee spreading the virus to other residents or employees. As such, some guidance is provided below for landlords and property managers on addressing certain multi-family specific concerns relating to the global pandemic. For additional guidance relating to employees, visit Ice Miller's Coronavirus/COVID-19 Resource Center
Keeping Residents Informed and Healthy
Landlords and property managers should ensure they are continuing to monitor the CDC's website for the latest information on the virus and guidelines for controlling its spread. Landlords should consider issuing a notice to their residents to: (1) educate them about preventive behaviors recommended by the CDC, including handwashing and avoiding contact with others when ill except to get medical care, (2) provide the address of the CDC's Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) website (, (3) provide a telephone number for the local health department, (4) request that residents who are ill, have traveled to areas with a known COVID-19 outbreak or have been in contact with a person who is a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 not interact face-to-face with property staff, enter the management office or use any common facilities (e.g. fitness center, pool, clubhouse, etc.), and (5) provide a management contact phone number. Landlords may also want to pay particular attention to sanitizing common areas as part of regular cleaning, including front desk surfaces, lobby restrooms, mailroom, door knobs, push bars and elevator buttons. Landlords may also want to consider providing hand sanitizer or hand washing stations, to the extent available, at the entry point to common areas; making disinfectant wipes available in certain common areas (e.g. fitness center, game room, etc.) and suspending resident package deliveries to the leasing office and having packages delivered to resident doors instead. Some landlords are closing common facilities and leasing offices altogether.
Responding to an Active Diagnosis
If a landlord discovers that a resident has been diagnosed with COVID-19, the landlord should contact his or her local health department for advice on appropriate action. 
Tenant Defaults and Evictions
Although tenant defaults and evictions are likely far from top of mind during this global pandemic, landlords and property managers will likely run into judicial obstacles. Concerns about COVID-19 have caused many courts to impose mandatory continuances for their cases. Additionally, certain states and municipalities have suspended evictions altogether and others are in the process of doing the same. Indiana has temporarily prohibited the initiation of evictions. The prohibition will be in effect until at least April 5, 2020 and is likely to be extended. While the order issuing the prohibition expressly references initiation of actions or proceedings, certain counties are citing the order to postpone pending eviction proceedings as well. Typical issues such as nonpayment of rent are likely to take longer than usual to address. For more urgent matters, such as destructive residents, landlords should contact an attorney for immediate assistance. From the tenant perspective, for those who find themselves unable to pay rent due to the COVID-19 outbreak, they should contact their landlord and discuss options.

Ice Miller attorneys are ready to assist with any problems that may arise during this global pandemic. For additional guidance on COVID-19, visit our Coronavirus/COVID-19 Resource Center.

This publication is intended for general information purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The reader should consult with legal counsel to determine how laws or decisions discussed herein apply to the reader’s specific circumstances.
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