3 Things to Keep in Mind As Eviction Protections End This Month

published Jul 19, 2020
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The coronavirus pandemic has upended lives in so many ways. For those who had their income drastically reduced or lost their jobs entirely, figuring out how to make rent each month has become a serious concern.

If you’re feeling the squeeze, you’re not alone. Apartment List surveyed 4,000 Americans and found that 32 percent of respondents failed to make their full July housing payments on time, and more than 21 percent of renters are either “very” or “extremely” concerned about facing eviction in the next six months. According to data from the most recent U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey analyzed by LendingTree, about 31 percent of renters have little to no confidence they’ll be able to pay next month’s rent on time. 

Some compassionate landlords have voluntarily waived rent for their tenants. Many cities and states also enacted moratoriums on evictions during this deeply challenging and uncertain time.

In addition, Section 4024 of the federal CARES Act provides a temporary moratorium on eviction filings. The legislation prohibits property owners from initiating eviction proceedings as well as charging fees, penalties or other charges against tenants for nonpayment. Enacted on March 27, these protections are valid for 120 days, meaning they expire as of July 25, 2020.

As that date draws near, experts have warned of a coming “housing apocalypse.”  Here’s what to expect as federal eviction protections end, and what tenants can do to advocate for themselves and remain in their homes.

Find out about local laws in your area

While the eviction protection portion of the CARES Act expires on July 25, many jurisdictions have enacted their own protections at the state, county, or city level.

The Tenant Safe Harbor Act, for example, extends an eviction moratorium for renters who faced financial hardship in the wake of the pandemic through the end of New York’s state of emergency. In California, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order allowing local governments to prevent evictions of renters through September 30.

“Where I practice law in Maryland, governor’s orders do not allow judges to order evictions against tenants that are unable to pay their rent to COVID-19 as long as Maryland’s state of emergency is in effect,” says Brian Pendergraft, an attorney with The Pendergraft Firm in Greenbelt, Maryland. “My advice for renters from a legal perspective would be to contact a pro-bono legal service organization or tenant advocacy group to learn what legal protections you may have in your jurisdiction.” 

Communicate with your landlord

If you know money is tight and you anticipate that you may be unable to make rent, don’t keep mum. Instead, Caleb Liu of California-based home flipping service House Simply Sold recommends you get in touch with your landlord as soon as possible to discuss possible solutions.

“Tenants might have to get creative,” says Liu. “Maybe you can volunteer to clean up and maintain the common grounds in exchange for reduced or free rent.”

Another option Liu suggests is “cash for keys,” an arrangement in which a tenant promises to exit the lease early, leaving the unit in pristine condition in exchange for a small cash payout. 

Stay informed

While it may be tempting to bury your head in the sand to avoid bad news, now is not the time to ignore reality. 

“This is a frightening and extremely stressful time, and sometimes people react to moments like these by ignoring bad news in the mail,” says attorney Ellen Davidson of The Legal Aid Society in New York City. “If you don’t respond to court papers, you could end up hurting your case. There are defenses to evictions cases, and people should be able to assert them.” 

Davidson recommends opening any mail you receive from the court promptly, and following the instructions about how to respond.