As a result of coronavirus, apartments across the country are closing common areas to encourage social distancing. Since these areas aren't available for renters right now, it begs the questions, what should be done about monthly amenity fees?
While each apartment, HOA and condominium complex will handle amenity fees differently, we did some research to understand high-level trends across the country when it comes to amenity fees during the coronavirus pandemic.
What are amenity fees?
Amenities are the additional perks and features offered at an apartment complex. Amenities can range from covered parking to on-site laundry facilities to a pool, hot tub and gym. Because renters have access to additional on-site benefits, they may pay more, usually in the form of a monthly fee or an amenity fee.
Are apartment amenities open during social distancing?
Now that social distancing and shelter-in-place orders have been issued nationwide shutting down local businesses alike, how does that affect community areas like the neighborhood gym or pool that you're paying for? What about amenities like the laundry room or trash room that are deemed essential?
Property owners should be monitoring local and federal mandates when determining whether to close or restrict access to amenities. This comes down to whether the amenity is an “essential business" and if people can maintain social distancing. For example, in California, laundromats are considered an essential business.
So, your community pool may be closed, but the on-site laundromat should stay open. You may see signs restricting the hours of operation or the number of people allowed in at once.
Apartment owners and property managers also need to follow CDC guidelines for cleaning and upkeep to ensure resident safety and well-being.
If the amenities are closed, do you still have to pay the fee?
The answer isn't a simple yes or no and depends, in part, on whether your apartment building includes the amenity fee in your rent or charges a separate fee.
If your amenity fees have been bundled into the price of rent — and your amenities have been shut down to comply with local guidelines — you'll probably not see a reduction in what you pay.
For example, IRET, an apartment provider in the Midwest, says it offers amenities to residents for free, and therefore "will not be adjusting rent during this period of closure."
However, Shravan Parsi, CEO and founder of American Ventures, says "At the end of the day, renters are paying for the totality of their living situation. If there is a definable charge that can be pointed to for amenities or other items they are no longer able to access then I think it makes sense to make that concession."
The bottom line: You need to check with your property manager and lease to see how amenities are covered in your monthly rent payment.
What are your options if you can't pay your rent or amenity fee?
As with rent and other bills, you may be struggling to pay during this time. If you can't continue to pay the amenity fees, you should do the following:
- Call your property manager directly and ask if you can create a payment plan, defer payments or use your security deposit to cover your dues
- Research what local and federal mandates are in place that may affect the closure of your apartment's amenities
- Understand your rights and the new CARES Act, which places a 120-day moratorium on evictions, late fees and other penalties
Talk to your property manager openly
Because the coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented, everyone is figuring out how to cope. It's better to over-communicate with your landlord, ask lots of questions and negotiate for what you need. Chances are, you'll be able to come up with a plan that works for both of you if you simply ask.