By Mike Kruzman /

Renters worried about not being able to make payments are afforded few protections right now, but an expert on fair housing says open communication might be the best policy.

Kristen Fuller, who is the Associate Director for the Fair Housing Center of Southeast and Mid Michigan is addressing concerns renters have around rising rent payments and evictions during the shutdown. While some renters are complaining about landlords seemingly arbitrarily raising their rent during the pandemic, Fuller says this is not typically legal. She says that if a tenant is inside a year-long lease, raising rent is not legal unless the landlord’s mortgage or utilities have gone up. If the lease is ending and a new one is being negotiated, though, rent increases are legal.

Renters are protected from late payments and evictions through April 30th, as part of the governor’s stay-at-home executive order. Fuller says that an added benefit of the federal CARES Act is that if the landlord’s mortgage is federally backed, that date extends to July 25th. She estimates 70% of landlords fall under this provision. Fuller reminds that this doesn’t mean payments won’t have to be made. She said lease and mortgage payments aren’t being waived, they are just getting pushed back. Fuller says she know it will be hard all around, but hopefully unemployment and stimulus checks can help people in the time being.

Fuller encourages tenants who may find themselves struggling with payments to reach out to the landlord and communicate their situation. Explain if you have applied for unemployment and when that was, if you are receiving food stamps, and what other hardships you may be facing. Fuller suggests trying to work out a payment plan or some type of negotiation in writing or by email.

She says if you still feel you are being discriminated against, visit the Fair Housing Center’s website through the link below or contact her at (877)979-3247.