To: Commercial Landlords Operating in the Williams District:
My name is Ben Cox. My law practice is on N. Williams Ave., and I serve as Vice President of the Williams Vancouver Business Association (WVBA). I am writing to you today on behalf of the 200+ businesses in our district, businesses which employ about 3,000 people.
The COVID-19 crisis presents an existential threat not only to human life, but also to our community’s neighborhood businesses. Those businesses depend on public patronage to survive; such patronage is impossible now, and will remain so for weeks or even months.
As you are no doubt aware, this severely affects the short-term ability of business tenants to pay rent. By their digital signatures below, it is the unanimous request of WVBA’s board that you do everything in your power to work—creatively and compassionately—with tenant businesses to find workable solutions for deferring rent payments without resorting to financial penalties or eviction. This might include adding time to the end of the lease in lieu of payment for the same amount of time now, reducing or waiving rent until the worst has passed, bartering for services in lieu of rent, or other arrangements that could help preserve the ability of your tenants to stay in business and return to full rent-paying capability as quickly as possible.
To be clear, we appreciate the opportunities and services that you provide for tenants, and we don’t wish to simply transfer financial pain from one party to another. Besides being a member business, I also rent offices to other professionals, making me a commercial landlord as well (as is WVBA’s Past President). However, several facts remain true:
- Many businesses simply are not able to pay in the short term, and their owners and families suddenly face huge obligations with far less (or even zero) family income;
- Should they fail, there are no businesses lining up to take their place as tenants; and
- When this crisis has passed, we will all want to look back and be able to say that we did everything we reasonably could, as individuals and businesses, to help other people and preserve the character of this place we all cherish and call home.
If there is any way WVBA can help you (including assisting with negotiating or mediating rent issues with tenants), please do not hesitate to contact us. Otherwise, we look forward to any and all efforts you can direct toward sparing your tenants from the worst outcomes possible.
Ben Cox, Attorney at Law
Emma Dye, Crisp Salads NW
Boyd Carroll, Unitus Community Credit Union
Jason Gorske, DIY Bar
Natalie Hough, Unitus Community Credit Union
Audra Santillo, Workshop Vintage
Annalise Servin, Friends of the Children
Annabelle Snow, N. Portland Wellness Center
Williams Vancouver Business Association Board