Like just about everyone, because of the coronavirus, doing business and living life are looking different for us here at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor.
As a nonprofit organization that works to provide safe, affordable housing opportunities for people of Grays Harbor County, we are as committed as ever to help clarify renter and landlord issues, to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, to support homebuyer education with counseling, to make loans for home purchase and repair, and to qualify residents for free ductless heat pumps. But all these activities require contact for both you and us.
Going to Work Looks Different
We have been spending the last two months social distancing and primarily working from home. However, we are also changing our physical office to create a safer and more efficient workspace for what we believe will be a very busy time for all of us, again.
Changes we have made in our office at 710 East Market St., Aberdeen include installing full, clear screens at our service desk and changing our heating and air system so it “scrubs” the air throughout the building. In addition, we’re putting in a new near-curb document drop-box for our clients’ convenience, but also to reduce unnecessary contact with staff.
Clients will have to have appointments with the counselor and phone or virtual meetings will be used whenever possible. When face-to-face private counseling is the only choice, a separate counseling-only entrance will be used. New screens at the counselor’s desk will be in place and masks will be required.
But while those physical changes will make a difference, probably the biggest change is how we are doing our work. Like so many of you at your work places, we will be staggering who is working in the building at any time to keep up social distancing. And also like many of you, we will be relying much more on the telephone, messages, e-mail, tele-conferencing and the good ‘ole post office to accomplish what we used to do face-to-face. Loan and rental payments can be mailed or put through the office mail slot.
For efficiency sake, the best way for you to get our help is to call (360 533-7828) ext. 102 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org From that, Julie Galligan, our housing counselor, will likely set up a phone or teleconferencing meeting with you.
Losing a job and not being able to pay the mortgage or rent can be a very scary and stressful situation. Throw a pandemic on top of that and it’s not surprising that folks are feeling emotional about their situation. Having us as a calm, objective presence to help explain to you what your lender is saying or what your rights as a renter or landlord are can be reassuring and helpful to you.
If you are facing troubles like this, likely it is your first time. Over the years, we have helped thousands of people during their difficult times and have gained a wealth of knowledge in the processes we intend to share. And remember, there is no cost to you for our counseling services.
One misconception we are already seeing about the new law that placed an eviction moratorium in place through June 4, is that the rent is forgiven. That is not true. The federal government put the plan in place during the height of COVID-19 to last through June 4.
At this point, until June 4, a landlord cannot evict a renter, serve eviction papers or charge late fees.
“However, this does not mean people have free rent from March to June!” said Julie. “All that rent is still owed. We are hearing and seeing people who assume that means they don’t have to pay rent and are spending the rent money on other things. That is not what the moratorium is about. If you can, continue to pay your rent or mortgage – and prioritize that over other non-essential purchases because they will become due,” she said.
“If it isn’t possible to pay your rent, talk immediately to your landlord because there are various payment plans that can be agreed upon that can take place after you secure income. And, if you are unclear of your rights – either as landlord or tenant – give us a call,” she said.
We are Landlords too
Something we don’t talk about much is that we are providers of safe, affordable housing units ourselves, managing about 34 units. The reason we bring that up today is twofold.
First, we want landlords to know that we understand their cares and concerns, as well as those of renters.
Second, we are having to learn how to complete minor repairs in our buildings with proper personal protection and social distancing procedures like other landlords should be.
The protocols we use while entering apartments has been to ask that no one is in the space during the repair process if possible. In addition, our repair folks wear masks and gloves while doing their work. These procedures protect the resident and the worker. And, again, keeping the building maintained as best as you can, cuts way down on the unexpected repairs and saves you money in the long run. But, toys in the toilet happen!