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How The End Of The Moratorium On Rent Can Really Affect You
If you’ve fallen behind on your rent payments in the past year, here is what you need to know now that the federal moratorium on rent has expired.
During the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people lost their jobs or suffered from significant pay cuts. Due to the lost wages, many people were unable to make their monthly rent payments or pay their bills. In order to keep people in their homes and prevent the spread of disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) placed a federal moratorium on evictions to prevent landlords from evicting residents who had fallen behind on rent. However, the federal moratorium has now expired, leaving millions of renters confused, worried, and at risk of eviction.
If you or someone you know has fallen behind on rent over the past year, you’re likely wondering what happens now and what you can expect in the coming weeks or months. In order to protect yourself and stay in your home, it’s important to arm yourself with knowledge and know your rights as a renter. Therefore, we have answered some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding the expiration of the federal eviction moratorium and what you can do if your home is at risk. That said, always make sure to check with your local officials and keep your eye out for government updates to ensure you always have up-to-date information on the rules and policies that are applicable to your area.
Is all hope lost for struggling renters?
All hope is certainly NOT lost for renters who have fallen behind on payments. Since the federal ban on eviction lapsed, there has already been a new two-month moratorium put in place by the CDC to halt evictions in areas where the delta variant has caused significant increases in coronavirus cases. The CDC is concerned that forcing people out of their homes would only increase the spread of the disease. In some areas, local officials have enacted their own eviction moratorium in addition to the CDC’s new eviction ban. Depending on where you live, this new moratorium may buy you time to improve your financial situation or determine the right next steps for you and your family. In some areas, local officials have also enacted their own eviction moratorium in addition to the CDC’s new eviction ban.
In the future, there is a chance struggling renters will also receive some relief from both the federal and local governments. An emergency fund has been put in place to help renters in need, but each state and local municipality has to design new systems to distribute the funds and determine who to prioritize first. This has caused millions of dollars in rental aid to remain unspent, as all of this change and planning is a long and tedious process. Of course, there is always hope that the processes for distribution of the aid money will improve in the coming months.
How much time do I have before my landlord can evict me?
If you live in an area that isn’t protected by the CDC eviction moratorium or a local moratorium, the process can take anywhere from a few days to several months. It all depends on where you live and where your case is in the court system and your relationship with your landlord. It’s assumed that tenants who were already undergoing court proceedings will likely be the first to be evicted. If you have a poor relationship with your landlord and live in a hot housing market, you may also be at risk of a quicker eviction because the landlord will be eager to replace you with a paying tenant.
However, your landlord can’t just simply kick you out. They must follow the law, which means your landlord has to legally notify you that you are in breach of your lease or in default and pursue eviction proceedings through the court system. The process that is in place inherently buys you some time, as only an eviction order issued by the court can kick you out. Although frustrated landlords may try to threaten you or take illegal actions, they are not allowed to just kick you out, lock you out of your home, turn off your utilities, or remove your personal property from the residence. If your landlord is trying to illegally evict you, it is well within your rights to call the police for assistance and to file a complaint of your own within the local court system.
Is it too late to negotiate with my landlord?
Until your eviction has been ordered by the court, it’s never too late. However, it’s important to remember that some landlords will be more receptive than others and you must be respectful of their final decision. If you have a good relationship with your landlord, they may be willing to negotiate a payment plan to allow you to catch up on past-due rent and avoid eviction. Even if your landlord says no, you are no worse off than you were before. Therefore, it’s always worth the effort to try to politely negotiate.
Does the eviction moratorium mean my past-due rent is forgiven?
Unfortunately, your past-due rent is not forgiven by the eviction moratorium. Unless you’ve worked out a different deal with your landlord, you do still owe every penny. In fact, no late rent, late fees, penalties, or interest charges were cancelled and courts in some parts of the country will begin processing evictions again. Make sure to check with your local government or court system to see if this applies to you.
What do I do if I receive an eviction notice?
While receiving an eviction notice is upsetting, ignoring the notice will not make it go away. Instead, make sure to show up to your court date and plead your case. You can seek legal assistance through referrals from friends. Depending on your situation, some lawyers will be willing to represent you pro bono, which means they will help you with your case for free. You can also obtain legal help through a non-profit organization, called Legal Services Corp.
If the court does issue you an eviction notice, don’t wait until the eviction date to find a new place to live and start moving your stuff. Make sure to plan in advance so you have somewhere safe to stay until you get back on your feet. This is a good time to lean on willing friends or relatives, or check with local authorities to learn about temporary shelters or low income housing options that may be available to you. You may also want to temporarily rent a storage unit to keep your belongings safe and secure.
Did the pandemic change my rights as a renter?
Unless you are covered by an existing eviction moratorium, your rights as a renter are the same as they were before the COVID-19 pandemic. Depending on where you live, some exceptions may be in place for people who can prove they are still struggling economically because of the pandemic. Therefore, it’s always important to confirm you have the most recent information regarding eviction procedures and policies from local authorities.
It’s also important to note that the current two-month moratorium from the CDC is not retroactive and is not permanent. Evictions that occurred between August 1st and August 3rd would not be protected by the current moratorium because it wasn’t in place yet. If you are using the current eviction moratorium as a way to buy yourself time, keep an eye on the rate of coronavirus infections in your area. Once your county goes two weeks without reporting a substantially high amount of new COVID-19 infections, the moratorium will expire and you will be vulnerable to eviction proceedings again.
What other resources do I have to help me?
It’s always sketchy to mix family or friendship with money, but asking a financially secure loved one for financial support in order to avoid eviction could be a reasonable last resort. If you do go this route, it’s always a good idea to clearly define repayment terms if you will be paying back your friend or family member for the loan. You can even sign a contract for clarity and proof an agreement was made. If you can’t pay all your bills, you can also try to call creditors and see if they will temporarily allow you to pause payments until you can catch up on your rent.
Officially, you may want to reach out to a nonprofit housing counseling agency that is approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These agencies will be able to offer advice and identify options that will help you avoid eviction. The Treasury Department has also put together a list of resources and rental assistance programs that can help tenants and landlords obtain financial relief.
Is renting a home still a good idea in the future?
Renting a home or apartment always comes with many benefits. Some common examples include your landlord is typically financially responsible for home maintenance and repairs, and you have the freedom to move around to different cities or areas frequently. Since most leases will only lock you in for little more than a year at most, you won’t be stuck in one place for long if you want to move to a new city or get a job offer somewhere else. Just because you’ve faced eviction before as a renter doesn’t mean you will again, particularly if you are able to improve your finances or if you reevaluate your budget to ensure you are living comfortably within your means. Many people enjoy renting and there is no reason you shouldn’t take advantage of leasing your home.