"Don’t feel disempowered," says Shark Tank's Barbara Corcoran. "You can make a phone call and usually with good results."

By Diane Herbst and Wendy Grossman Kantor
April 01, 2020 09:00 AM
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PEOPLE’s Real Tips for Real Life presents practical answers to some of the most commonly asked questions around finance, employment and preparing for the future—even when that future can seem very uncertain.

As the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered businesses and limited services across the U.S., millions have suffered a significant loss of income. And with that comes the worry of how to pay the rent or mortgage, not just for April but likely for several months to come.

Despite a grim economic forecast, which includes a record 3.3 million filing for unemployment benefits last week, there is help available.

Last week, President Donald Trump announced that the Department of Housing and Urban Development will suspend “all foreclosures and evictions” through the end of April.

And there are still options you can discuss with your landlord or mortgage lender — and steps to take now.

“You are not to sit there and be afraid that you won’t have the money to pay the bill. Take action,” financial expert Suze Orman, host of the Women & Money podcast, tells PEOPLE.

“Action is the only way to conquer fear,” she says. “Stay on them and negotiate with them, and let them help you. And I’m sure they will rise to the occasion to do so.”

If You Own Your Home

Contact your lender

Financial and real estate experts advise homeowners to contact their mortgage lender to discuss options as soon as possible, with many banks announcing different options for mortgage assistance.

“I’m getting a lot of questions from people who are laid off or people who have their jobs and are afraid of being laid off and losing their house,” Shark Tank‘s Barbara Corcoran, a real estate mogul, tells PEOPLE.

“The minute you think you cannot afford your mortgage payment, call your lender. They don’t want to lose you,” she continues. “They’ll make a temporary deal with you if you’re really in need. Don’t call your lender and say you don’t feel like paying.”

Some states, such as New Jersey, have announced plans to give homeowners adversely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak a 90-day grace period to pay their mortgage with no financial repercussions.

And a plethora of lenders are offering deferment on mortgage payments and other forms of assistance for those financially strapped due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Here is a partial list of what some of the major banks are offering for those adversely affected by COVID-19:

Chase is offering help with mortgage payments. Call 800-848-9380 for more information.

Citi is offering a range of hardship programs for qualifying customers. Call 1-855-839-6253 for more information.

US Bank is offering a mortgage payment forbearance of up to 90 days with no late fees.

Wells Fargo offers some payment deferral plans for customers with mortgages as well as credit cards and auto loans.

If You Are Renting

Contact your landlord now

Pick up the phone and call your landlord or the managing agent of your unit to discuss your options. “Don’t feel disempowered,” says Corcoran, who is also a landlord. “You can make a phone call and usually [get] good results.”

Work out a payment plan

Corcoran suggests it is best to offer to make partial payments if you can, until “you’re back on your feet.”

“Landlords know nobody’s moving right now,” she says. “So as a tenant, you’re pretty valuable.”

Pay what you can rather than paying nothing at all if you are able, says Kumiko Love, a financial counselor also known as The Budget Mom on Instagram.

“A lot of my readers ask me if they should even pay and I say yes, set up a partial payment or payment plan,” she says.

You should also call your landlord to see if they are offering the option of no rent payment at all, as a growing number of landlords across the country have vowed to do for April, at least.

Love’s former apartment complex is Spokane, Washington “is allowing renters three months of no payments,” she says. “A lot of people don’t realize the services being offered.”

Eviction Moratoriums

On a local level, many towns and cities have suspended evictions. “New York City declared a moratorium on evictions. Period. Not just for a month. With no end date,” says Corcoran. “That’s terrible news for landlords, but should be very comforting news for tenants. That gives you substantial power.”

Most other cities and states are suspending evictions for a period of time due to the coronavirus crisis, including California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, New York, Miami, Seattle and Philadelphia.

For renters having financial difficulties, Justshelter.org offers comprehensive state-by-state advice, with over 600 local organizations that can provide help.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.