Rent Abatement during the Coronavirus Pandemic

Rent Abatement during the Coronavirus Pandemic

Rent Abatement during the Coronavirus Pandemic



Of the many fears associated with the COVID-19 Pandemic, one of the biggest is the direct and indirect economic disruption associated with the Pandemic. Put another way, the legitimate fear of losing your job or having your hours reduced to the point of not making enough money to pay your mortgage, rent, bills and feed your kids. For many folks in Western North Carolina right now, this fear is quickly becoming a scary reality.

The good news is that that some financial help is on the way. As this blog is being written, the United States Congress is still debating the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”). Provisions of the CARES Act include providing financial payments to citizens and low interest loans and grants to small business if they keep workers employed. In the wake of the Pandemic, North Carolina has eased unemployment benefit restrictions. However, even with these promised financial tools, many people are still worried about how they are going to pay their monthly mortgage payments or rent.

A. Mortgage Hardship Forbearance.

Just last week, the Federal Housing Finance Agency advised lenders to offer forbearance options for individuals impacted by the coronavirus and who are in jeopardy of falling behind on their mortgage payments. A “mortgage forbearance” is a situation where a lender temporarily reduces or suspends mortgage payments for a period of time (generally no greater than six months) while the borrower’s financial stabilizes. While the interest on the mortgage still accrues, payments stop. Most of the major mortgage lenders have provided information on their websites addressing forbearance and hardship options for individuals impacted by the Pandemic. Here is a link to a recent web article posted by Forbes magazine listing major financial institutions and what they are doing to help assist their customers. Even if your financial institution is not listed, visit its website or call to learn what options might be available.

The most important thing is don’t put your head in the sand and just unilaterally stop making your mortgage payment. BE PROACTIVE. Contact your financial institution immediately and ask about what forbearance or hardship options are available and if you qualify. Being ahead of the curve and requesting a mortgage forbearance is a significantly better position that having your mortgage go into foreclosure and then trying to work-out a solution with your lender.

B. Rent Abatement.

If you currently have a residential lease agreement, it is certainly worth discussing with your landlord about rent abatement. Rent abatement is just like a mortgage forbearance, a temporary reduction or suspension of rental payments for a specified period. In North Carolina, a landlord is not required to voluntarily provide rent abatement in most situations. However, if you or your spouse have lost a job or had hours significantly cut as a result of the Pandemic, it is certainly worth exploring this option with your landlord. Keep in mind, if you have been a good tenant in the past, your landlord should have an incentive to work with you. It is much easier and cheaper to keep a good tenant than having to search for a new one – particularly now.

While you can’t force your landlord to agree to a rent abatement, try to convince your landlord using reasonable positions:

A. Do Your Homework! Anecdotal stories carry far less weight than hard numbers. Before you discuss this topic with your landlord, know your numbers. How has the Pandemic impacted your immediate household budget? Using conservative estimates, how might the Pandemic impact your household budget for the next 3-6 months if the current situation remains the same.

B. Lease Extension. Depending on how your lease is structured, you could agree to extend the term of the lease for each month of rent abatement. For example, if your landlord agrees to a three-month rent abatement period (i.e., no payment of rent for three-months), then you could agree to extending your lease by adding three extra months to the end of your lease.

C. Compromise. Something is better than nothing. If your landlord will not agree to a full rent abatement, then try a partial rental abatement – 50% or 25%. If your landlord will not agree to three-months (which seems reasonable in light of what medical professionals are forecasting with the Pandemic), then try two or one-month.

D. Get it in Writing. Make sure to have a written agreement which properly amends your current lease.

It is hard not feeling overwhelmed and scared watching the news. It is only natural given everything that is going on and it is easy to be reactive rather than proactive. Hang in there! Now, more than ever, Brian Elston Law is here to help you and your families through these uncharted waters. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions or need to talk to someone about your situation. We are all in this situation together, and together, we will do our best to get out of it.

Coronavirus (Covid-19) Public Health and Safety

Coronavirus (Covid-19) Public Health and Safety

Coronavirus (Covid-19) Public Health and Safety

Important Announcement


We would like to take a moment during this Coronavirus public health emergency to reiterate that the well-being of our clients and potential clients is, and has always been, the focus of Brian Elston Law. As a private, client-centric personal injury firm, we regularly make ourselves available through phone calls, in-person meetings, emails, and even text messages. Due to our specialized size, we can be there for each of our clients.

Our clients can trust that we are here for them, even amidst the recent Covid-19 concerns. We do not anticipate any disruption in service. We will be, however, taking extra precautions for in-person meetings. As our office is private with already limited foot traffic, we believe that we can still offer in person meetings with extra precautions in place.

We will be doing our part as members of the community by limiting social interactions to an as-needed basis. We will continue our “in-person by appointment” only policy. Prior to scheduling the appointment, we will verify that the in-person meeting is necessary, the individual is well enough to attend and has not been exposed to any illnesses, the rooms and door knobs are wiped down, hands are sanitize and that a “warm hello” will take the place of a handshake. For potential clients, we will do what we have always done: carefully review their matter prior to scheduling p an in person meeting. We’ve always protected our clients, and we will continue to do so in this challenging time.

For more information on what to do to protect yourself, the CDC’s guidance can be found here. Symptoms for COVID-19 are found here. For information on our private setting, see here.

Thank you for your cooperation and support.

Get To Know Chad Ray Donnahoo

Get To Know Chad Ray Donnahoo


Chad Ray Donnahoo

Attorney and Shareholder, Brian Elston Law

Chad Ray Donnahoo grew up in Western North Carolina and graduated from Mountain Heritage High School in Burnsville. He attend UNC Chapel Hill and initially thought about becomming a history professor. After graduating with a B.A. in History, Chad attended graduate school at UNC Chapel Hill and got a M.A.T. in secondary social studies education. His favorite class was education law. Following a short stint as a public school teacher, Chad returned to Chapel Hill and graduated with his J.D.


  • B.A., 2002, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • 2003, M.A.T., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • 2007, J.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Bar Admissions

  • United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit
  • United States District Court, Western District and Middle District
  • United States Court of Federal Claims
  • All North Carolina courts
  • Cherokee Tribal Court
Chad Ray Donnahoo
Rated by Super Lawyers

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10.0Chad Ray Donnahoo




“Fairness. Justice. Honesty. These early values are my guideposts, still.”
– Chad Donnahoo

Law School Experience

During law school, Chad was a legal clerk for the United States House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary and spent much of his time doing work on the Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security subcommittee. After law school, Chad returned to the mountains – his home.

Asheville Attorney

Beginning in 2007, Chad worked at two law firms in Asheville mainly representing public schools, community colleges and local governmental entities. Chad was a noted attorney in his field and in 2018-19, was the Chair for the Education Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association. In April 2019, Chad got the rare chance to team-up with his best friend, Brian Elston and changed his practice area to workers compensation and personal injury. Since April 2019, Chad has been an attorney and shareholder at Brian Elston Law.


Commitment to Law in Western North Carolina

Having spent his entire life here, Chad brings with him an unwavering commitment to the people of Western North Carolina and making sure that his clients are treated fairly and equitably under the law.

Whether you were recently hurt in an automobile accident or you’re suffering from a workplace injury and need an attorney at your side to help navigate the choppy waters, contact Chad Ray Donnahoo at Brian Elston Law.


School Bus Accident Lawyers

School Bus Accident Lawyers






I was reading the newspaper the other day and read about a school bus crash involving a local high school volley ball team that occurred in McDowell County, North Carolina. Of course, our thoughts and prayers go out to the students, faculty, families and friends of those hurt by the school bus accident and hope that everyone is ok. Sadly, in our experience as school bus accident lawyers, school bus accidents happen frequently for a variety of reasons: mechanical problems with the school bus; the school bus driver’s negligence; or the negligence by a third party.  


Lawsuit against the school board

If it is determined that the school board’s employee(s) was responsible for the accident, the school board can be sued.







School Bus Accidents are different than other motor vehicle accidents because of the tort claims act

As former school board attorneys and now attorneys for the injured, both Brian and I have a considerable amount of experience as school bus accident lawyers, on both sides of the coin, when it comes to litigation involving school bus accidents. Check out “Our Results” on our webpage for more information about a recent Brian Elston Law case involving a school bus accident.

Below are some common facts associated with public school bus accident cases.


No. 1  Lawsuit against the school board.

If it is determined that the school board’s employee(s) was responsible for the accident, the school board can be sued. In a previous blog regarding school board law, I wrote that in most negligence cases, a school board is entitled to governmental immunity and is immune from damages in a negligence lawsuit. This general principle of governmental immunity, however, does not apply in the context of school bus accidents. In this context, the Board of Education has waived its immunity up to one million dollars because the claim is covered under the North Carolina Tort Claims Act and there is a specific statute dealing with school bus negligence claims. The one million dollars applies in the aggregate (meaning, there is up one million dollars to settle all related claims for all parties involving that specific accident). In normal lawsuits against a Board of Education, the lawsuit must be filed in district/superior court in the county where the school system is located. In school bus accident cases, however, the claim against the Board of Education must be filed in, and adjudicated by, the North Carolina Industrial Commission.

No. 2 Lawsuit against the Board of Education Employee.

In addition to filing a lawsuit against the School Board in the North Carolina Industrial Commission, at the same time, it is also possible to file a lawsuit against the Board of Education’s employee, in his/her personal capacity, in district/superior court. First, personal capacity claims are not subject to the North Carolina Tort Claims Act and are not subject to governmental immunity. Second, as I noted in a previous blog regarding school teachers, the State of North Carolina has provided professional liability insurance for public school employees who are sued in their personal capacities. This insurance is secondary; meaning, that this insurance will only kick-in after the first one million dollars has been paid by the Board of Education; however, in a school bus accident case that could likely involved several injured students, it is highly likely that this insurance could be triggered.

It is important to make sure that if your child or you are involved in a school bus accident case, you have knowledgeable and experienced attorneys who understanding the multiple layers and parties and can maximize the potential claim.

Personal Injury Claim – Part Two

Personal Injury Claim – Part Two






(cont) Meet more of the band from Topic No. 002

4. On back up vocals:

Lost wages, future lost wages, and future medical treatment are like back up vocals. They complete the song and make it resonate. Lost wages are usually determined by a letter, affidavit, or some other documentation from the injured’s employer. In regards to future medical treatment, that is established by the client’s treating physician or through a life care plan.

Our office works with an injured’s employer in establishing lost wages. Generally speaking, that is not too difficult.


Obtaining a medical opinion by a treating physician can be a bit more difficult. However, our office has established relationships with medical providers. Whether it is from a phone conference, opinion letter, or a life-care plan, Brian Elston Law will nail down future treatment to be sure a client’s song is complete.

5) Drummer, Property damage and loss of use of vehicle:

In motor vehicle accidents, jurors equate the more extensive the property damage to a vehicle with the significance of an injury. A jury will more likely believe that a client is injured when seeing a picture of a vehicle crushed like a Coke can, than when there is a fender bender.

Brian Elston Law obtains photos of not only our client’s property damage, but also the other vehicle in a motor vehicle accident. In addition, we obtain records from our client’s out-of-pocket expenses for car rentals, Ubers, or simply paying a friend to use their car while theirs is in the shop.

6) The It-factor:

Pain and suffering how the accident happened, punitive damages:
Each successful band has it. The “it” factor. A client’s personal injury claim is no different:

How has the client’s life changed because of the injury and accident? What did he or she used to do then that they can’t do now? What do you wish they could do but can’t? How did the accident happen? Who is the person that caused the accident? What were they doing when the accident happened?

Our firm digs in to quantify how the accident changed our client’s lives. In addition, we not only likes to successfully resolve our client’s injuries, but also make sure that no one else goes through what they did. Brian Elston Law substantiates the impact our clients go through, and find out what caused the accident to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.

Conclusion: Like a band, the components of a personal injury claim must come together to perform a song.

More importantly, the song must resonate with the claims adjuster or a juror. The attorneys at Brian Elston Law work with each client to put together each component. In doing so, they hope to rock the adjuster or jury in providing each client with the maximum amount of justice.