Sold-out concerts, crowded weddings, packed sports stadiums, bustling restaurants, bustling bars, bustling offices. One step outside, and it feels like the pandemic is over. As immunization thresholds approach critical mass, America is once again open for business.
But as the public health aspect of the crisis wears off, the economic aspect still affects millions of people. This is especially true for tenants who have struggled to pay their rent for months and have relied on emergency declarations to keep them in their homes.
Washington, DC, stepped in to help, extending a blanket ban on (most) evictions across the country. But federal protections on eviction moratoria are about to end.
Why the moratorium on evictions exists
As the pandemic raged over the past 15 months, Americans have suffered a wide range of crises, from jobs to healthcare to schooling. But for many tenants across the country, the effect has been doubly felt. Job losses, medical bills, childcare needs and basic living expenses made monthly rent difficult. Without help, many tenants would be threatened with eviction amid a global health and economic crisis.
Fortunately, the federal government had a plan to help. The broadest of these measures was the federal moratorium on nationwide evictions. The government has demanded that landlords cannot evict tenants for non-payment of rent during the pandemic. This entered into force in March 2020 as part of CARES Act of Congress help package. It has since been extended several times.
The moratorium was broad but contained a number of stipulations. To qualify, tenants had to meet certain income thresholds and be unable to pay rent due to medical or professional difficulties.
Tenants who requested assistance were also required to prove that they had made “good faith” efforts to receive assistance and that they had no other housing options.
What happens when the moratorium on evictions ends
To break it down simply, moratoria are late payments. Any tenant benefiting from an eviction moratorium must still reimburse the missed rent, as well as any fines or costs. From now on, these rents, fines and fees will soon be payable.
“Since the start of the pandemic, housing providers and residents have made huge sacrifices to meet their obligations amid unprecedented economic uncertainty. We continue to encourage apartment companies to work with residents… as we get back to normal. “- Doug bibby, President, National Council for Multifamily Housing
After the CDC’s moratorium began, there was about a quarter of a million eviction cases pending filing. That’s more than half of what is typically seen during this period, despite the growing number of people behind on rent. The Center estimates that more than 10 million households are late, which is a 14% of all tenants in the nation.
With the end of the federal moratorium, what is the next step for tenants who have depended on it?
Some regions have moratoria that exceed the federal deadline
By July 1, those helped by the moratorium will have to work out a plan with their landlord to reimburse the rent and applicable fees. How quickly and when should payments be refunded is a decision your landlord or landlord will make.
Most tenants will ideally initiate a payment plan to stay in their unit or come up with mutually agreed terms to move forward. But for others, the eviction process can begin within 30 to 90 days if they cannot pay the rent owed. It all depends on where you live.
Fortunately, the federal government is not the only entity providing protection. Several states and municipalities have their own moratoria that extend beyond CDC coverage. Many states have implemented their own declarations of emergency under which local moratoria on evictions continue. Some extend protections for a period of time after declarations are lifted on June 30.
Renters in states like Minnesota, Connecticut, Maryland, Montana and others are still covered by local emergency declarations. In Oregon, tenants have until February 2022 to make up missing payments without fear of eviction. In Washington State, tenants now have a guaranteed right to legal assistance when an eviction goes to court.
Sadly, this still leaves the future of millions of tenants hanging in the air as the federal moratorium ends and the rent literally comes up.
Rent payment methods for tenants
If you live where the moratoriums will continue after the end of federal protections, now is the time to plan for the end of your coverage.
But if you live in a state or city where protections no longer cover you, there are still other options.
Recovery plans and rental assistance
In recent months, the federal government has passed several plans to provide grants and stimulus funds to tenants to catch up on rent and to landlords to catch up on mortgage payments.
Just after Christmas 2020, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act in anticipation of ending the moratorium on evictions, designating $ 25 billion in the scheme. The part of the plan that affects tenants is known as the Emergency Rent Assistance Program – tenants can visit the site to see where the money is going.
In March, $ 23 billion more came from the US bailout, which most Americans received a stimulus check. The Emergency Rental Assistance portion of this plan went to specific states, territories, and cities and counties.
In total, $ 46.6 billion in stimulus funds are available to tenants. And the money is not only available for overdue rents, but also for rental fees, late fees, moving fees, and utility payments.
The catch is, the money doesn’t go directly to tenants, or even landlords. It goes to local governments and states. To receive funds under these programs, tenants must contact the appropriate housing authority or agency to start the payment process.
If you don’t know where to start, you can dial 211 for more information.
Make a plan with your landlord
Even if you are eligible for assistance, it may take some time to receive it. In fact, the estimated amount of rent arrears owed across the country is up to $ 53 billion.
Whether you are waiting to receive payment or are not eligible at all, the best answer is communication. The national refrain during the pandemic was: “We are all in the same boat.” You, your landlord, your neighbors, everyone has had their own stresses and issues. The first step is to speak with your landlord or the landlord about your situation.
Sit down with them and come up with a plan that keeps you in your apartment and earns them their money. Most owners will be understanding and helpful as long as the lines of communication remain open and everyone is working towards the same goals.
The information in this article is for educational purposes only and does not constitute, and is not intended to constitute, legal or financial advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional legal or financial advice if they deem it necessary.