For local property owners, these days are anything but business as usual.
Dean Hotop has been a landlord for the past 20 years, with his most recent acquisition a six-unit apartment building in San Jose that he bought in 2011. The 52-year-old property owner is part of a growing group of self-described mom-and-pop landlords who are giving breaks to their tenants to get through these trying times.
Whether it’s foregoing any rent increases until the coronavirus pandemic is over or reducing an immediate payment on a case-by-case basis, Hotop and some of his fellow landlords say they know it’s time to come together.
“I’m not focusing on myself at this moment,” Hotop said. “I want to keep my tenants in place, and if that means the cash flow takes a hit for a couple of months, that’s what it means. Things certainly could be a lot worse.”
Hotop is working with the Bay Area Homeowners Network (BANH)—a nonprofit, organization representing small rental property owners—to craft a message to members encouraging them “to show who we really are.”
They say that means continuing a legacy of caring, sacrifice and selflessness at a time when the community needs it the most. “I was raised by good parents and know the right thing to do,” Hotop told San Jose Inside. “I think the difference between mom-and-pop landlords like myself and corporate landlords is [that corporate landlords] don’t have that personal relationship with their tenants. They’re more beholden to spreadsheets and executives, where I’m beholden to my values and taking care of my tenants.”
BANH President Jenny Zhao said the organization stresses altruism, noting how it led a donation drive to collected personal protective equipment (PPE) before sending the supplies to homeless prevention organizations, hospitals and senior centers.
“We understand by helping the community and helping our tenants, we are helping ourselves,” Zhao said. “We are in the process of receiving more PPE and distributing to more places across the Bay Area. Our effort continues.”
A week ago, on March 25, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that most major banks will provide mortgage relief to property owners, including independent rental owners who are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19. Two days later, the Santa Clara Superior Court said it would stop processing eviction paperwork for any reason as long as the stay-at-home order remains in place, because eviction is not an “essential service.”
When Newsom announced the statewide shelter-in-place order on March 19, Hotop said he knew it was time for local landlords to band together for the public good.
“This is a national and moral crisis, and you can look at previous generations before us and see how people made huge sacrifices and stepped up,” he said. “Now it’s our time to pay it forward and pass this on to future generations.”