• Business

    Landlords Squeezed Between Missed Rent and Overdue Mortgages

    (Bloomberg) -- Chuck Sheldon, a landlord and property manager in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has owned apartments for more than half a century. These days, he can barely keep up with all the moving pieces.He’s talking with owners of roughly 1,700 units he manages, who are worried what’s going to happen if rent checks stop coming in. He’s talking with tenants, about half of whom he assumes will be delinquent this month because they lost jobs or choose not to pay. And he’s in discussions with banks, trying to figure out how he’ll make mortgage payments on the properties he owns during a rapidly worsening global health crisis.“That’s the $100,000 question,” said Sheldon, the president of T&C Management. “I’ve never seen something like this.”It’s rent day in America, with roughly $22 billion in monthly payments on apartments due, according to CoStar. But just how much of it gets paid in the coming days is anybody’s guess.Some large property owners have already rolled out payment plans and halted evictions as the coronavirus outbreak roils the economy. But many apartments in the U.S. are essentially small businesses that tend to have less financial flexibility and will need help in the coming months.Few ChoicesThere are few good choices for the millions of Americans who lost their jobs and have no clear prospects for when they’ll get them back. Eviction moratoriums, unemployment benefits and cash payments from the federal government could help many keep a roof over their heads.But nearly half of the nation’s 44 million renter households were already stretched financially. Over the next six months, they could need as much as $96 billion in relief, according to a recent analysis by the Urban Institute.Housing advocates have urged Congress to protect low-income renters and homeowners as deadlines loom. On a conference call Tuesday, the Center for Popular Democracy called for eviction freezes and rent and mortgage payment cancellations. The group stopped short of pushing for a rent strike, an idea other activists have floated.Sid Lakireddy, a landlord and the president of the California Rental Housing Association, said such efforts are “just plain wrong.” Property owners need to help tenants if they’re able, but renters should not take advantage of the situation, he added.Withholding PaymentOn a recent visit to an apartment building he co-owns in Berkeley, California, Lakireddy bumped into a tenant who threatened to withhold rent because of a new ban on evictions. He pointed out that the tenant hadn’t lost a job.“I said, ‘You’re not affected by this economy. You’re on Social Security,’” Lakireddy recalled. “‘Don’t screw with me, man.’”Not far away, in Oakland, Krista Gulbransen manages a duplex for a small property owner. She recently got a request from a tenant to lower the $3,495 monthly rent on his three-bedroom unit by roughly 40%. The renter makes about $172,000 a year at an established technology company, she said.“I just didn’t understand,” said Gulbransen. “He’s asking for a rent reduction of about $1,500, saying he doesn’t know where his job is going to be in the next few months.”Such anecdotes are probably rare, said Maya Brennan, a policy analyst at the Urban Institute.“There will be a very small sliver of economically privileged renters who will try to use this to get some extra advantage,” she said. “The vast majority of renters know that they need to figure out a way to keep a roof over their heads and are going to be trying to ask only for the level of relief that they truly need.”Not all the conversations between landlords and tenants are fraught. Hasan Leviathan, 20, lives by himself in a two-bedroom house in Frostburg, Maryland, where he is studying to become a physical therapist. In March, he lost his job at Kay Jewelers. Without that income, his $570 in rent is too burdensome, even with help from his mother, he said.Leviathan was prepared to move home, but his landlord agreed to stretch the April payment over the next six months, and also offered him a minimum wage construction job, which he plans to accept.“People need help more than ever,” Leviathan said.Trickling InChris Athineos, a Brooklyn landlord who owns nine buildings with about 150 apartments, half of which are rent-stabilized, said he’s sure some of his tenants have lost jobs and plans to work with them, perhaps offering the option of making partial payments.Some rent checks for April have trickled in, he added. And a handful of tenants who have relocated out of the city called about making payments electronically, he said. It won’t be until the middle of the month that he’ll get a full accounting of how much of the expected rent came in.Athineos said rent freezes don’t make sense, unless landlords get relief from property taxes. For now, he’s still paying a staff of five maintenance workers -- on top of his mortgage, taxes and water and sewer bills.“It’s kind of wait and see,” he said. “We’re holding our breath.”(Updates with quote from researcher in the 15th paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • U.S.
    The Wrap

    74 Journalism Professors Sign Letter Calling Fox News’ Coronavirus Coverage a ‘Danger to Public Health’

    74 journalism professors and journalists signed an open letter addressed to Fox News’ Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch on Thursday, criticizing the network they oversee for its coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.The letter stated, in part, “The Viewers of Fox News, including the president of the United States, have been regularly subjected to misinformation relayed by the network — false statements downplaying the prevalence of COVID-19 and its harms; misleading recommendations of activities that people should undertake to protect themselves and others, including casual recommendations of untested drugs; false assessments of the value of measures urged upon the public by their elected political leadership and public health authorities.”It went on to declare Fox News’ coverage a “danger to public health,” citing various statistics. One survey cited, for instance, came from Pew Research and revealed that 79% of Fox News’ viewers felt the media was overstating the potency of COVID-19, or the coronavirus.Also Read: ReCode Co-Founder Blames Fox News for Aging Mother's Lack of Coronavirus ConcernLike other recent critics of the network’s coverage of the pandemic, the professors did point out that some Fox News reporters have done “solid” reporting, specifically singling out primetime host Tucker Carlson.“Urgently, therefore, in the name of both good journalism and public health, we call upon you to help protect the lives of all Americans — including your elderly viewers — by ensuring that the information you deliver is based on scientific facts,” the letter said.Primetime host Sean Hannity responded to the letter in an exclusive interview with Newsweek, saying, “They’re guilty of what they accuse me of. I said it in 2007: Journalism is dead.” Hannity then cited misreporting in the 2006 Duke lacrosse team rape case and Nicholas Sandmann, the Covington High student who sued CNN for defaming him.Fox News Media has been impacted both by some talent’s early coverage of the virus and by the illness itself: Fox Business Network parted ways with Trish Regan after she questioned whether coronavirus was a hoax designed to hurt President Donald Trump.Six confirmed cases in the New York offices have coincided with an overhaul of company procedure. All interviews are now down by Skype and the select few employees still working in the building instead of telecommuting are asked to take their temperature every morning.Earlier this week the network began airing a PSA across the channel where Fox News various on-air talents urge viewers to visit coronavirus.gov for the latest information to stay safe during the pandemic. Fox News and Facebook hosted a town hall Thursday night, making a joint $1 million donation Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund in the process.Among the signatories are Todd Gitlin of Columbia Journalism School, Mark Feldstein of University of Maryland and Adam Hoschchild of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.Read original story 74 Journalism Professors Sign Letter Calling Fox News’ Coronavirus Coverage a ‘Danger to Public Health’ At TheWrap

  • U.S.
    The Daily Beast

    The Villains of the Virus Are Cashing In and Spreading Death

    Devin Nunes, who over the course of his career has blamed a drought on environmentalists and Donald Trump’s collusion with the Kremlin on the FBI, went dark on us for a little while but has returned with a vengeance, blaming the soon-to-be-wrecked economy on California education bureaucrats. OK, not directly. But in a dumbshit harangue to Laura Ingraham Tuesday night (with the Fox host nodding along every step of the way), he denounced the closure of California’s schools as “way overkill” and then argued that Americans have to get back to work in “a week to two weeks” or the economy will perish.The ugly world view that has brought us to this wretched point was on full display, along with the evidence that this impassioned advocate of a return to pedagogical normalcy must have skipped English class as a lad (“kids coulda went back to school in two weeks to four weeks,” he said). The experts, from education to public health, are making ninnies of us, when what we really need is for a few real men to get back out there in public and show the rest of us what real Muricans think of a pesky little virus.Nunes’ rant was reminiscent of his CNN screed on March 15—just days after the NBA season was cancelled and public life in America basically shut down—that “it’s a great time to just go out, go to a local restaurant, likely you can get in, get in easily.” This Is a Man-Made Disaster, and That Man Is Donald TrumpIt’s tempting to call that kind of talk idiotic, but it’s worse than idiotic. Language like his, in mid-March and now, is pernicious. It’s deadly. People who take his advice are at risk of dying, or killing others. Nunes may be an idiot, but he’s unquestionably also a villain.He’s a villain of the virus. There are a lot of virus idiots out there, like Evangeline Lilly, who said she wouldn’t self-quarantine and subsequently apologized for being such a dope. But she’s not a true villain. Villains of the Virus are saying and doing things that will advance death, that will contribute to the U.S. and global body count. And by the way that sounds like a great name for a list. Who, so far, are the leading Villains of the Virus?1\. Donald Trump. Duh. This doesn’t even need to be explained. Just remember these two dates. He received his first intelligence warning about the virus on Jan. 8. He finally acknowledged that it was more than mostly a political hoax on March 13, at that briefing where he kept shaking everyone else’s hands. Yes, other politicians were slow, too, but other politicians weren’t the president of the United States getting intel briefings and hair-on-fire warnings from the world’s leading epidemiologists. 2\. Rupert Murdoch. Yes, Sean Hannity is a virus villain for sure, and Ingraham; Tucker Carlson started out that way, but I guess we have to pull him off the list ever since his valiant drive to Mar-a-Lago in early March to try to tell Trump that this was serious stuff. But the biggest villain of all is off-screen: Murdoch, 89, who is the one who allows these toxic lies onto his airwaves and who cancelled his birthday party in early March even as he was letting his stars go out on his air and tell his viewers it was all no biggie.3\. Rush Limbaugh. The virus was a Democrat effort “to get Trump” and was just “the common cold, folks.” Remember, that’s a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient talking. 4\. Ron DeSantis. In some ways, the Florida governor is the most unbelievable of the bunch. Still no stay-at-home order. Look at this video of boaters crowding this inlet. This wasn’t from January or February. It was from last weekend. It fell to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to ban these sandbar parties. What is happening in DeSantis’ brain? In a state where one in five residents is a senior citizen? So he finally issued a stay-at-home order Wednesday. Count me unimpressed. He should have done it two weeks ago, and anyway he’ll never live down spring break.5\. Kelly Loeffler. The Georgia Republican senator made news alongside North Carolina GOP senator Richard Burr for trading stock based on inside information they were receiving about the crisis as senators. But Loeffler is worse. Her husband owns the New York Stock Exchange. The couple sold shares in retail chains and invested in a company that makes COVID-19 protective garments. She could have been telling her constituents what she knew: that this virus was deadly serious and they’d better hunker down. But she wasn’t telling them that, just as she wasn’t telling them that they should dump their retail stock because brick and mortar stores were about to tank. And Nunes fills out the dirty half-dozen.There are tons of others. Loads of administration officials and other Republicans have made statements belittling the extent of the virus, over-praising Trump’s abominable handling of it, or arguing that saving the stock market was more important than saving lives. I think of Mike Pence, Mick Mulvaney, Larry Kudlow… but really, they’re too numerous to name. Another dishonorable mention category belongs to the corporate bad actors, like the cruise ship companies that want bailouts while they incorporate in Liberia to avoid U.S. taxes. Then there are the profiteers, like Joel Freedman, who bought and closed a Philadelphia hospital and now wants the city to rent it from him—for $1 million a month. And we have the hoarders who’ve created a black market in toilet paper and Lysol. A crisis like this brings out the best in most people. But in people who were bad to begin with, it brings out the worst. And it begins and ends with the worst person of all, the one whose attempts to wish all this away is raining this mayhem down on us today and now congratulates himself in advance if we have “only” 100,000 deaths, or maybe 200,000. He set the tone that all these others follow and that makes the United States of America right now the shame of the world. Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.