COVID Q&A: Credit score, employment and housing issues

(WSVN) - If you lost your job during this pandemic nightmare, odds are your credit score took a hit. Now South Floridians are finding out how much damage that can cause, but is it legal to reject you because of a credit score? Let’s bring in Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

It should have been a great day for Ernesto. He was ready to close on his new condo and had a renter lined up for his old condo.

Ernesto Gutierrez: “I was so excited, and the best part is, the person is one of my best friends from over 10 years.”

A good friend, a trustworthy guy, and so Ernesto sent in the rental application to the condo association.

Ernesto Gutierrez: “We got an email that it was rejected, which was a huge surprise. It was basically telling it was based on the consumer report.”

Ernesto’s friend had a good reason for a rough credit score. It took a drop over the past few months.

Patrick Fraser: “What happened during those months?”

Ernesto Gutierrez: “Something called coronavirus, and a lot of people lost their jobs, and he was one of them.”

Now, Ernesto’s friend has a freelance job and is going back to his full-time job as well. Even if he couldn’t pay the rent, Ernesto says, it wouldn’t stop him from paying what the association needs: the maintenance fees.

Ernesto Gutierrez: “I am responsible as the owner to pay for the association. Doesn’t matter if he has an excellent credit or low credit.”

But without a renter, Ernesto is the one facing a monetary mountain as he closes on his new condo.

Ernesto Gutierrez: “I’m so stressed out, because in a couple of weeks, I’m going to have two mortgages, because this place is not rented out yet.”

Well, Ernesto’s potential renter is going to be one of many people whose credit score is taking a hit right now. Howard, can an association block him from moving in?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Yes, they can, but they need to be careful because the U.S. Supreme Court has said it could be discriminatory to block a minority, like Ernesto’s renter, solely on their credit score. An easier solution? Because of the impact of COVID, associations are going to have to be more flexible in judging potential renters.”

Tough times are getting even tougher, as businesses that were allowed to reopen are being closed or partially closed and having to lay off employees again. Can those people go back on unemployment?

Howard Finkelstein: “Yes. They need to reopen their applications to obtain the benefits they are still entitled to.”

Good luck with that unemployment system. Also, it’s starting to look like many college students may have to learn online from home. Howard, if they signed a lease for an apartment near campus, can they get out of it?

Howard Finkelstein: “No, you can’t get out of the lease, unless your lease allows you to break it by paying two months’ rent. Check for that clause, and if you haven’t signed the lease yet, before you sign it, write a sentence in that gives you the right to break the lease if the college or university returns to online education.”

Ernesto Gutierrez: “I know he is a responsible person.”

We then had an idea for Ernesto: offer to pay three months association fees up front if his tenant was approved. Ernesto said he would be willing to pay six months.

The property manager wrote back, “Thank you for your understanding of our association’s rules and your willingness to work with the board towards a positive resolution. The board accepts your offer and will accept the lease application with Mr. Naveda. ”

Ernesto Gutierrez: “Thank you, Help Me Howard team. Thank you, thank you so much.”

Hopefully everyone will be flexible in this coronavirus world, Ernesto says, and if not, he knows where to turn.

Ernesto Gutierrez: “Contact Help Me Howard, and their team is going to be doing whatever they can to resolve your case.”

Howard Finkelstein: “Glad we could help out a little.”

We would love to help you and answer any questions you might have, except one question: when will this crazy pandemic life end? Can’t answer that one.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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