This article originally appeared on VICE US.
A New Jersey landlord recently told his tenants he’d cancel rent for the next three months, asking only that they “pay it forward” by supporting local businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We should all do our part, and it’s something we can do. It provides a little bit of good news to people in a world where there’s no good news, and I think that’s meaningful,” the Montclair landlord, David Placek, told NJ.com. “The idea was just, let’s relieve some stress from our tenants.”
Tenants across his 12 properties will not have to worry about rent for April, May, and June. Placek will lose approximately $50,000, according to WABC-TV. Placek acknowledged in a comment to VICE News that he was “fortunate” to be able to waive rent, noting that some landlords wouldn’t be in a position to do so.
“The response to this story has been incredible, and what is most amazing is the number of people reaching out, both tenants and landlords looking for ways to work together in these tough times,” he said.
The landlord’s forgiving rent policy comes as states and cities across the country implement eviction moratoriums, recognizing that tenants will inevitably be unable to pay for their shelter in the coming months. With broad “stay-at-home” orders keeping much of the country’s economy at a standstill, more than 16 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in recent weeks, and millions of tenants failed to make even a portion of their rent this month.
However, advocates and legislators warn the moratoriums aren’t enough. They only temporarily stall the problem, potentially leaving tenants with a mountain of unpaid rent and flood of eviction notices as soon as the pandemic abates, leaving a housing crisis in its wake. So, advocates have more recently pressed for what Placek’s already done: rent cancelation during the height of the crisis.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy praised Placek for his move, which came in an email to tenants in late March but was reported on by NJ.com and other outlets in recent days.
“David Placek is a landlord with a dozen tenants,” Murphy wrote on Twitter Saturday. “He stepped forward to give every one of them a rent holiday through June. He exemplifies the spirit we need to see right now of people stepping up to make sure others can come out of this emergency stronger.”
Similarly, a landlord in Brooklyn went viral for canceling April rent across his 18 residential buildings, forgoing potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the New York Times. Another landlord in Portland, Maine, also said he’d cancel rent for the month of April.
Cover: A sign advertises an apartment for rent on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)