A California Landlord Gave His Stimulus Check to His Tenants So They Could Pay Rent

“My wife and I spent hours talking about it and feeling bad that it wasn’t enough and we couldn’t do more,” the landlord told KNTV.
May 1, 2020, 3:28pm

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Do you have a story about your landlord, or about how you’re making rent during the global pandemic? Email the author at emma.ockerman@vice.com

One California landlord recently used his stimulus check to subsidize his tenants’ rent and make their lives a bit easier during a global pandemic that’s battered the economy.

The Santa Rosa landlord hasn’t been identified — he told the NBC affiliate KNTV this week that he wants to remain anonymous. When he received his $3,400 stimulus check in April, he and his wife decided that money would be best spent on their tenants. They matched that amount with their own money so they could trim about $500 off the rent for all their tenants.


“My wife and I spent hours talking about it and feeling bad that it wasn’t enough and we couldn’t do more,” the landlord told KNTV. “I just feel like we’re all in this together.”

For one tenant, Cynthia Whitsitt, the landlord’s actions meant she wouldn’t have to pay about a third of her rent, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. She can now use that money to register and fix her vehicle.

“It was a great surprise, but I wasn’t really that surprised because that’s the type of guy he is,” Whitsitt, his tenant, told the station. “He’s a great guy.”

For many Americans, housing is their single largest annual expenditure. So it’s no surprise that those payments are a monthly source of anguish for many of the 30 million Americans who have filed for unemployment since mid-March. Though most qualifying Americans received a $1,200 stimulus check in April, thanks to the government’s $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package, it was barely enough to cover rent in many of the nation’s largest cities.

A third of tenants failed to pay even a portion of their rent in April. This month is expected to be worse. Thousands of renters are participating in a nationwide strike starting May 1, withholding payment in an effort to pressure legislators into rent and mortgage cancellation.

While some landlords have aggressively gone after their tenants for the rent they’re owed in recent weeks — in some instances even illegally evicting tenants who can’t pay — others have been far more forgiving. One New Jersey landlord forgave his tenants’ rent for three months and told them to go out and spend that money at local businesses, instead.

Another landlord earned viral fame after he cancelled rent across his 18 Brooklyn apartment buildings in April, potentially forgoing hundreds of thousands of dollars in income.

Cover: Getty Images