Dozens of property management companies in Utah will offer rent deferment for the month of April in an effort to accommodate tenants who have contracted the coronavirus or who are financially impacted by the pandemic.

On Thursday, the Utah Apartment Association announced “a plan to help renters cope with the economic impacts of COVID-19” and introduced a “Rent Deferral Agreement” for tenants and landlords to sign.

Paul Smith, executive director of the Utah Apartment Association, said the agreement is optional and it will be up to landlords and tenants to decide how and when April’s rent would be paid.

“Probably the owners of over 150,000 rental units are on board,” Smith said in an interview on Friday. “So a large majority of the rental operators realize that they need to be proactive in finding a way to help their customers.”

Smith added that the apartment association is not recommending interest be included in the deferral plans but emphasized that that’s a decision for landlords to make.

“Every landlord’s different,” he said. “But we’re not suggesting that there be interest.”

On its rental housing page, the Utah Apartment Association lists “criteria suggestions” for which residents landlords should consider offering rental assistance.

“There must be a showing of how their income is directly affected by the Pandemic,” the list reads. “Loss of job due to the pandemic, inability to work because of illness related to the pandemic, etc.”

Other criteria suggestions include whether there is a co-signer on the property, whether there are multiple residents whose combined income may be sufficient to pay April’s rent and whether “they have been a good tenant.”

“If you are not going to renew the lease, you may not want to grant a deferment,” the criteria suggestions list says.

Smith said the program is not intended for everybody and that anyone who is still able to pay April’s rent should do so.

“This isn’t a ‘get out of rent free in April’ program,” said Smith. “It’s a program specifically for people who either contracted the virus or have been in quarantine because of the virus or (are) caring for somebody or whose job the hours have been cut back.”

On Monday, U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, proposed that the federal government send $1,000 checks to every American “to help ensure families and workers can meet their short-term obligations and increase spending in the economy.”

Smith said rent deferment contracts would include a clause stating that, if any such government assistance materialized, tenants would be required to pay April’s rent using money from the check.

While the rental assistance program is only being offered for April’s rent, Smith said the Utah Apartment Association would consider expanding it to future months if necessary.

A number of Utah County-based property management companies have agreed to offer rent deferment, including Provos’ Aspen Ridge Management, Vision Real Estate and Maxx Property Management, Highland’s Action Property Management and Sales, and Lehi’s Property Management Inc.

Smith said he believes rent deferment will help families and tenants who are unable to work or are otherwise unable to come up with April’s rent.

“No one wants mass evictions,” said Smith. “We all want to stabilize and eventually get back to normal.”

More information about rental assistance can be found on the Utah Apartment Association’s website, https://uaahq.org/need2know.html.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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