Adventures in Housing

One person on both sides of the landlord-tenant divide

Amy Scott and Maria Hollenhorst Apr 28, 2020
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In some cities, tenants are calling for rent strikes because of dire financial circumstances brought on by the coronavirus crisis. Julie Jammot/AFP via Getty Images
Adventures in Housing

One person on both sides of the landlord-tenant divide

Amy Scott and Maria Hollenhorst Apr 28, 2020
In some cities, tenants are calling for rent strikes because of dire financial circumstances brought on by the coronavirus crisis. Julie Jammot/AFP via Getty Images
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As millions of newly unemployed and underemployed people confront another month’s rent payment, people in cities across the country are calling for rent strikes. 

Many tenants say they cannot afford to pay rent this month because of the coronavirus crisis and are seeking relief from their landlords, but many landlords (especially smaller ones) face financial uncertainty as well. 

Sarah Frier is one person who sits on both sides of the landlord-tenant divide. She owns two rental properties — one in Chicago and one in Austin, Texas, which house a total of eight tenants — but she’s also a renter herself. 

“I get why people hate landlords and there’s so much vitriol online about it,” Frier told Marketplace. “But to me, if you’re in the business of sheltering people, then you should be in the business of sheltering people, and you should do it correctly.”

Frier was able to pause payments on one of her mortgages, so she lowered the rent for all her tenants.

“I know that my tenants don’t have months and months and months of rent saved up,” she said. “I’m asking people for 500 a month. If there’s a point where they don’t have that, I’m not going to ask them for anything, I’m not going to kick anyone out of their house.”

Frier can sympathize with what some of her tenants are going through because she’s newly unemployed, too. She can’t do her job helping people remodel bathrooms until she can safely go inside people’s homes again. 

Meanwhile, she’s still paying rent to the landlord who owns her apartment and making payments on one of her mortgages.

“I don’t have a 401(k), I don’t have a retirement plan any other way,” she said. “When does the government step back in to help us in a time of crisis?”

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