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What if My Apartment Lease Ends During the COVID-19 Crisis?

[Updated: Dec 17, 2020 ] Apr 02, 2020 by Maurie Backman
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They say all good things must come to an end, and in some cases, that could extend to your time in your apartment. Reaching the end of a lease can be harrowing if you love your home and don't want to move, but having your lease end smack in the middle of a major health crisis can be downright disastrous.

If your lease is wrapping up in the coming weeks, you may be inclined to panic. But before you do, here are some steps you can take.

1. See if you can re-sign your lease or go month to month

As much as you probably don't want to pack up and move right now, your landlord probably doesn't want to deal with finding a tenant to replace you either. Therefore, if your lease is about to expire, your first move should be to reach out to your landlord or property management company and see about getting it extended. If either you or your landlord don't want to commit to another full year, ask for a month-to-month agreement, which your landlord will probably be on board with, assuming there isn't another tenant lined up.

2. Limit the number of new homes you view

If you're unable to extend your current lease and need to move, you can't just pick out your new home online without seeing it in person. Pictures can give you a sense of what you're signing up for, but they don't tell the whole story. That said, do your best to narrow your choices down to a handful of apartments so you're not stepping foot in too many buildings.

And when you do go to view those living spaces in person, do the courteous thing -- look but don't touch to the greatest extent possible. If you have to touch things, such as to test an apartment's water pressure, wear gloves and prepare to wash your hands thoroughly before touching your own things back home.

3. Move back home -- or in with a friend -- if money is an issue

Many people are out of work because of the COVID-19 crisis. If you're one of them, and are forced to move because there's no wiggle room with extending your lease, getting approved for a new rental may be easier said than done. If that's the case, see if it's possible to move in with a friend or family member temporarily. You can even offer to pay that person rent in exchange for their hospitality. Before you ask someone to take you in, though, make sure you're not displaying potential COVID-19 symptoms. Better yet, quarantine yourself for 14 days before moving in with someone who's extending you a courtesy.

4. See about renting a vacation home

Maybe you have no place to stay temporarily right now, and you can't extend your current lease. If that's the case, it pays to look at listings on sites like HomeAway (NASDAQ: AWAY) and Airbnb and see if there are local properties whose calendars are open for weeks at a time. Chances are, you'll find some, at which point you can see about renting someone's home for a month or two to ride out the current storm. And that way, you don't have to commit to a year of living someplace new at a time when you may not be mentally equipped to make good decisions.

Of course, this option may not seem like the most economical one out there, but remember -- desperate property owners may be willing to cut you a deal at a time when they're starved for rental income. Just be aware that in some locations, this may not be an option right now.

Now could be just about the worst possible time to have an apartment lease end. But if that's what's happening, try to be calm as you figure out a solution. And if you do wind up having to move, follow these tips for doing so safely.

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Maurie Backman has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.