An important protection for renters created by the CARES Act ended on July 25. Commonly referred to as an “eviction moratorium,” the protection applied to approximately 25 percent of renters nationwide and helped ensure that they would not be evicted during the ongoing health crisis of COVID-19. Now, this provision has expired, along with some states’ separate eviction moratoriums. On top of this, the $600 additional unemployment benefit created by the CARES Act has expired, too. As these critical programs come to an end, many fear that evictions will increase significantly. Here are some tips for tenants and landlords to navigate their housing situations in this new landscape.
Know Your State’s Law
The federal eviction moratorium only applied to subsidized housing and housing with a federally backed mortgage loan. It was estimated that this covered 25 percent of renters. While 25 percent is a substantial amount, the federal law left many unprotected. States stepped in to fill the gap, with many creating their own state-wide eviction moratoriums.
With the federal moratorium ending, it is important to be familiar with your state’s law. You need to know if your state has an ongoing moratorium. If it does, you need to know when that will expire. Every state is handling this differently. In Virginia, for example, the original moratorium had been extended but officially expired in late June. The governor then requested that local courts continue the moratorium, leaving it to their discretion. Therefore, in Virginia, whether or not you are currently protected from eviction depends on the policy of the city or county in which you reside.
As you can see, this can get confusing. There are some resources to help you quickly learn the current law in your state. You could check out the Eviction Lab’s COVID-19 Housing Policy Scorecard, which tracks current policies in every state. Nolo has a similar guide. You may also consult your local legal aid organization. Legal aid groups have been on the frontlines of advocacy for tenant’s rights during the pandemic, and their staffs will be able to provide up-to-date-information. You might even start by visiting their website or Facebook page to get recent updates and information.
Be Aware of Future Changes
Congress is in the midst of approving a second stimulus bill. You should stay aware of the negotiations and be informed about the terms of the new law once it takes effect. While no one knows for sure what the new bill will include, it is possible that it could extend the eviction moratorium or create some new form of housing protection.
Watch Out for Misleading Tactics
Despite the moratorium, some landlords have resorted to misleading tactics, which could confuse tenants about their right and cause them to leave the property prematurely. One thing to keep in mind is that landlords must give 30-days’ notice before eviction. That notice cannot be given until after the moratorium. So even though the moratorium ended July 25, you have until at least late August before you can be evicted. Landlords may be deceptively threatening eviction sooner, or attempted to send notices prior to July 25.
Also, some landlords may dispute that they are a “covered property” and therefore may argue that the moratorium does not apply to them. If you need to confirm that your property was subject to the moratorium for any reason, check out the database created by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which identifies most covered properties.
Again, you should also consider reaching out to a legal aid organization, other attorney, or tenants’ rights group for further assistance should you become the target of eviction proceedings that you believe may violate your rights.
Work Together When Possible
Landlords and tenants alike may find that working together will lead to the best solution. Given the widespread unemployment and harsh economic downturn caused by the pandemic, tenants may have more leverage than usual when it comes to negotiating. Landlords may feel that it will not be very easy to replace tenants, particularly those with strong payment records before the pandemic. Landlords also may also be understanding about the unique challenges involved in this situation, and be flexible in making alternative payment arrangements. HUD offers some advice about working with your landlord, including being candid about the specifics of your hardship, and keeping records of all communications.
Use Available Resources
Remember that you are not alone. Many people are working tirelessly on this issue. If you need help, consider reaching out to your local housing resources, including legal aid or other tenants’ rights groups. NFCC-certified agencies can also help with rental counseling or budget and credit counseling, which may help you restructure your personal budget and debt obligations in order to make your rent payments. Make sure you stay informed about your rights, follow any developments in a new stimulus bill, and remain in close communication with your landlord.