Millions of renters face eviction at the end of the year - Roost
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Millions of renters face eviction at the end of the year with the end of the rent moratorium

What renters need to know before the CDC rent moratorium expires

Millions of Americans face eviction at the end of the year, as the CDC rent moratorium is set to expire.   Why isn’t our Congress doing more? If you’re one of the million renters struggling, here’s what you need to know.

How many renters face eviction? 

According to research by the Aspen Institute, nearly 30-40 million renters could face eviction when the CDC rent moratorium order expires.  Back rent estimates are as high as $70 million.  Many of the renters are unemployed, impacted by COVID-19 shutdowns — and were rental cost-burdened prior to COVID-19, paying more than 30% of their income towards rent.  The US Census Bureau data by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calculates 1 in 4 renters with children (and 1 in 6 adult renters generally) was behind on rent in September. Also, renters of color are more likely to report being behind on payments where unemployment rates remain the highest. 

When does the CDC rent moratorium order expire?  

The order applies through Dec. 31, although it’s possible that it could be extended or that Congress could pass a new relief package.  

Will I have to pay back-rent I owe all at once in January? 

You might. The order specifically mentions this possibility. Your landlord has likely already informed you of this as well.  Many landlords will attempt to collect or process eviction.   However, Congress could extend the deadline.

When will the eviction be enforced? 

It depends on where you live.  Some judges have prevented landlords from beginning the eviction until the order expires, others have allowed cases to move forward but freeze at the point the tenant can be removed.  Most renters go to court (without a lawyer) and the process takes around a month by the time the sheriff comes out to enforce the eviction. With the expected backlog of cases to hit the courts at the beginning of the year, renters may have a bit more time.  However, there have been many reports of evictions happening despite the federal ban already — for a variety of reasons — including variations in how courts are applying the order; lack of tenant/property owner knowledge; owners challenging tenant CDC declarations, etc.). The Eviction Lab tracks the number of eviction cases being filed across the US during the pandemic.

Does the eviction moratorium expiration apply to every landlord and renter?

If you are under the protection of the CDC eviction moratorium, then yes, this applies to you.  You may live in a state, territory, or jurisdiction with stronger restrictions than the federal order and have a longer period of time.  For example,  California’s rent moratorium goes through the end of January.

What are my options if I can’t pay back-rent at the end of the year?  

  1. Move-in with someone else — maybe not ideal, but temporary until the pandemic passes, you can pay down some debt and you get back on your feet.  
  2. Talk to your landlord to set up a rent repayment plan. The number one rule is don’t dodge your landlord. Engage, be responsible, and responsive.  This will likely buy you more time until you get help, or at least prevent you from being in the first group of evictions. Evictions may take longer due to the avalanche of expected filings in January — there’s paperwork to process, court dates to manage, and ultimately a visit by the Sheriff to remove you.   
  3. Apply for local assistance — A number of states and cities have set up their own rental assistance funds.  For example, Washington set aside $100 million in funding and will pay up to three months’ rent to eligible landlords. However, the money runs out quickly so get in line right away. Stay up to date with your local resources as more funding may become available. Just Shelter lists over 700 organizations that offer housing assistance, legal aid, and more.
  4. File for bankruptcy —  Many owe not only months of back-rent, but months of other late bills too.  If your credit score is already shot, and you’re unlikely to be able to get your debt load to a manageable place in the next couple of years, then bankruptcy is a serious option. In the years following the 2008 great recession, bankruptcies spiked in the US and are likely to do so again. If the bankruptcy is filed before you are served an eviction notice, then you may be able to get a bankruptcy automatic stay to temporarily stop the eviction process. 
  5. Write your senator and ask them to support rent assistance relief immediately. 

Aren’t landlords just greedy? 

It’s tempting to think so, but in most cases, no. Property owners and landlords are having to unfairly subsidize Congress’s failure to address the bigger problem.  “For nine months, this tsunami on the horizon has been completely predictable and entirely preventable; we’ve known the solution to this for months, [the problem] is the lack of political will,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “We’ve been saying for nine months now that it’s going to take at least $100 billion in rental assistance.”

As one landlord put it, “grocery stores aren’t being asked to provide groceries for free because people cannot afford to buy food. Why is the government singling out property owners to shoulder the burden without more support?  All our bills are still due”.   Most landlords are trying to work with tenants to give them grace or time to find rent assistance or a job.  Replacing a tenant can cost a landlord as much as $5000 each, so don’t be afraid to ask your property manager/landlord for partial or full rent forgiveness. Especially if you can demonstrate that you’ll be able to get a job again soon.

Will Congress step up with rent relief? 

There is bipartisan support for some rental assistance, but the size and timing of a relief package are uncertain.  The most obvious step to preventing mass eviction at the end of the year is to simply not allow the federal moratorium to expire on December 31st.  What to do beyond that is complicated.  Renters want to pay their landlords.  They don’t want to owe tens of thousands of dollars of back rent, late fees, and bills. And, landlords really want to keep their tenants — finding and replacing tenants, as well as eviction, is costly. There is bipartisan support for some rental assistance, but the size and timing of a relief package are uncertain.  The most obvious step to preventing mass eviction at the end of the year is to simply not allow the federal moratorium to expire on December 31st.  What to do beyond that is complicated.  Renters want to pay their landlords.  They don’t want to owe tens of thousands of dollars of back rent, late fees, and bills. And, landlords really want to keep their tenants — finding and replacing tenants, as well as eviction, is costly. “Congress has a choice: prepare a rent relief package that prevents mass eviction and increased inequality, or face the repercussions for years to come — not just for individual citizens, but our economy and democracy,” says Chanin Ballance, CEO of Roost. Tenant and landlord organizations alike argue that the moratorium would work better if it were instead paired with money, vouchers or even a rent subsidy program like Canada implemented to keep people in their homes. 

What can I do to help renters who face eviction?   

Take the time to reach out to your US Senator to urge them to support emergency rental assistance targeted to those impacted by COVID-19.   If you have a little extra, donate to your local charity to help others. Or, even offer your couch to a friend in need. 

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Last Updated: December 4th, 2020