People Turn to Pawn Shops for Rent Money

NBC 7 Responds explains why pawn shops are still open during the coronavirus pandemic

NBCUniversal, Inc.

San Diegans are looking for ways to pay rent and some are turning to pawn shops. Tens of thousands of people have filed unemployment claims because they have had their hours cut, or lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"We're getting into the cycle where people are going to need that rent money," said Jeff Bernard of Palace Pawn Brokers. "I'm talking about waiters, waitresses, the barbers, everyday people."

Evictions in the state of California have been frozen, which means a landlord cannot kick you out immediately for not paying rent. However, you need to notify your landlord if you cannot afford to pay rent because of COVID-19. The San Diego Housing Commission says that notice needs to be given the day rent is due.

"Tenants who are protected from evictions by the City of San Diego’s Ordinance have up to six months ... to pay their landlords all unpaid rent," reads the commission's website.

Even though many businesses are closed, pawn shops are considered essential because they are technically financial institutions. Bernard said they have shut down the retail side of their business and are only focused on providing loans.

"We are not foreclosing on anybody that contacts us," said Bernard. "You don't even need to have an excuse."

Last week, more than 187,000 Californians filed unemployment claims with the state Employment Development Department, but those claims can take three weeks to process. Pawn shop owners say they can provide cash in just minutes.

"By the time the bank gets a $1,000 loan processed it'll be three or four days," said Bernard. "You can be in and out of a pawn shop in 15 minutes."

Pawn shops are also different than payday loan centers because if you forfeit the item, it will not show up on your credit report.

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