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Making the payment: Working together to keep renters in place

SIERRA VISTA — Now, more than ever, with the economy in disarray due to coronavirus concerns, communication between landlords and tenants is important.

On March 24, Gov. Doug Ducey signed Executive Order 2020-14, which postpones eviction actions for residential tenants. There is a misconception that the order prevents evictions altogether. However, that is inaccurate. Ken Volk, founder of Arizona Tenants Advocates, said landlords can still file evictions with the courts but the order prevents lockouts for those negatively affected by COVID-19.

Brad Snyder, associate broker for Sierra Vista Realty, said they are keeping an eye on the situation, although they haven’t had clients say they won’t be able to pay their rent.

“There’s not a whole lot to say right now,” he said. “If it goes longer, we may see an impact. We’ve alerted our property owners and we’ll look at it as a case-by-case (issue) to see how to handle it.”

Snyder said Sierra Vista Realty has 200-some rental properties which are primarily occupied by military personnel, civil service members and government employees.

Like Sierra Vista Realty, apartment complexes owned by First West Properties Corp. are addressing their tenants’ concerns on an individual basis. Frank Moro, president and owner of First West Properties Corp., said letters were given to the tenants of the 13 complexes he owns stating anyone who anticipates being unable to pay their rent should contact their property managers.

“We’re not evicting if they qualify (under the order),” Moro said. “We’re dealing with tenant issues on a case-by-case basis.”

Under the executive order, any tenant who has been: diagnosed with COVID-19 and must be quarantined; has been ordered to self-quarantine by a medical professional because of their symptoms as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); someone in the tenant’s household has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and the tenant must be quarantined; has a health condition, as defined by the CDC, that makes them think they are more at risk for COVID-19 than the average person; has suffered a substantial loss of income as a result of COVID-19, such as a job loss, reduced pay or compensation, the tenant’s workplace closed, an obligation to miss work to care for a homebound school-age child or other circumstances, are entitled to a delay in the eviction process.

Volk said 60 to 70 percent of calls to his office have been related to COVID-19. He said he is telling people who are concerned about making rent payments to fill out the form designated for temporary relief of evictions. Volk said even though a tenant can’t be forced out if they have filed the proper paperwork, which can be found at https://bit.ly/2xx6m4q, problems could occur with a backlog of rent payment for tenants, as well as payments landlords need to make.

Herald/Review Media called the Sierra Vista Justice of the Peace office and was told they “are doing evictions based on the executive order issued by the governor.” However, they would not confirm whether or not they would hold off on lockouts and referred the Herald/Review to a lawyer because they “can’t give legal advice.”

Executive Order 2020-14 doesn’t include commercial properties. Moro has 102 commercial tenants in the Sierra Vista area and is attempting to provide them with as much information about different loans as he can to help them not only cover their rent but also make payroll and pay their utilities.

“We’re making decisions case by case,” Moro said. “There’s no law not to evict businesses, but it’s really about helping local business.”

Starting Monday, Moro was sending information regarding SBA (Small Business Administration) loans that banks are in the process of starting. Moro said small businesses with a maximum of 500 employees can receive up to a $10 million loan to cover payroll, utilities and rent. The amount given is 2.5 times the business’ average monthly payroll.

“We want to make them aware of various programs available to help,” Moro said. “We’re all in the same boat, so we have to help each other out.”

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Five-year-old celebrates with drive-by birthday

SIERRA VISTA — Jaxson Dannels celebrated his fifth birthday last week, complete with visiting friends, family and other well-wishers in attendance at his Sierra Vista home. There were presents and sweets to help with the festive event.

But how could anyone have a birthday party during these uncertain times, considering the state of our world today? There are real-world concerns like self-quarantines, lockdowns and social distancing.

This was the challenge Jaxson’s mother, Celine Brant, and grandmother, Olivia Brant, faced when trying to figure out how the youngster could enjoy his special day.

Celine said, “We originally planned to have a family dinner with our close friends and family, but with everything going on, we thought it would be safest to cancel it. Then we had this last-minute idea to have a little parade.”

They decided to have a birthday parade for Jaxson, where participants would line up and slowly drive in front of his house and briefly interact with him while remaining in their vehicles. Many of the vehicles were adorned with decorations, streamers and signs acknowledging Jaxson’s big day.

Celine mentioned, “I thought it was a special way to kind of get together but not get together.”

The first car pulled up and an exuberant Jaxson greeted the occupants with a cupcake for each rider. The treats were individually sealed in plastic containers.

They wished him a happy birthday then handed him a present. The mobile visitors would then say hello to Jaxson’s family, who were standing on the sidewalk, then slowly pull away, allowing the next vehicle to follow suit.

Jaxson’s grandmother, Olivia, said, “I saw a live stream-type of video on Facebook that someone had posted. They had done something similar for their daughter. I thought, ‘Oh that would be fun just to have our family and a couple close friends do the same thing.’ ”

She mentioned that they kind of threw it together after cancelling the dinner party.

Jaxson’s grandfather, Scott, was involved as well by meeting the parade participants around the corner at an impromptu staging area prior to the parade while keeping close contact with his wife and daughter via phone.

Olivia also mentioned, “We were very touched by the support of family and friends. They loved the idea of dropping by, driving by. I didn’t know that everyone would decorate their cars; that was a fun aspect.”

Celine finished by saying that afterword they sent each attendee a little video of their visit as a way of saying thank you.

Creativity always wins out, especially during trying times.