- Currently, the Centers for Disease Control’s eviction moratorium will expire on June 30, 2021
- Even if you can make your current rent payments, you will still owe back rent for any missed payments
- The federal government has allocated over $46 billion in rental assistance, but those in need must apply for aid through a local organization
With a federal eviction moratorium ending on June 30, 2021, millions face an uncertain future.
Over 4 million adults currently live in a household at risk of an eviction or foreclosure in the next two months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. If the moratorium expires at the end of this month, we could see a tsunami of eviction proceedings. “The physical removal of people from their homes can happen very quickly, because in some cases, all steps up to that point have already been taken,” says Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), an affordable housing advocacy organization.
Even if you qualify for the moratorium, you’re still required to pay for any partial or missed rent payments. So the same tenants who are already struggling to pay rent could also be faced with thousands of dollars in back payments.
As part of the multiple stimulus bills passed in 2020 and 2021, the government has set aside over $46 billion in rental assistance. But these funds are being distributed through a wide network of local organizations. “The challenge now is to get that money to the lowest income renters and the small landlords who need it … before the eviction moratorium expires,” Yentel says.
If you’ve been financially impacted by the pandemic and are struggling to pay rent, here’s what you need to know about the current eviction ban and where you can find help.
What You Need to Know About the Current Eviction Ban
A federal eviction moratorium issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 is in effect until June 30, 2021. If you need to take advantage of its protections, especially if it’s extended, there are steps you need to take to qualify. “One of the primary flaws in the federal eviction moratorium is that its protections are not automatic,” Yentel says. “Tenants need to know that the moratorium exists, that it’s in effect, and they need to know what steps they need to take in order to receive those protections.”
The eviction moratorium only forbids evictions resulting from not paying rent. Other lease violations aren’t covered. To be eligible, you must sign a declaration form and submit a copy to your landlord.
By signing the declaration form, you are verifying that you fall under the income limits and cannot afford to pay rent. You’ll specifically need to meet one of the following criteria:
- You received a stimulus check in 2020 or 2021
- You were not required to report income to the IRS in 2020
- You earned or expect to earn less than $99,000 as an individual or $198,000 as a joint filer in 2020 or 2021
In addition, you’re also required to be unable to pay your full rent because of one of the following reasons:
- You’ve been laid off from work
- Your wages or hours have been reduced
- You’ve had extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses
- Your household income has decreased significantly
Even if you meet at least one of the qualifications in each of those categories, you’re still supposed to make partial rent payments as you are able. “You need to be trying to pay your landlord what you can afford to pay them,” says Erin Willoughby, director of the Clayton Housing Legal Resource Center, a project from Atlanta Legal Aid, which provides free legal services to low-income households. “If what you can afford to pay your landlord is zero, then you pay zero.”
The final stipulation to qualify is that, if you are evicted, you are likely to become homeless, move into a homeless shelter, or live in close quarters with others.
State and local eviction bans may also apply
In addition to the federal ban on evictions, many states and cities instituted similar protections for renters. While many of these protections have elapsed or due to expire soon, some will remain in effect even if the CDC’s moratorium isn’t extended.
To learn how to qualify for a regional eviction ban, contact your state or local housing authority or a local HUD-approved housing counselor.
Where to Find Assistance When the Eviction Moratorium Expires
Even those financially impacted by the pandemic who are back at work and are able to afford rent when the eviction ban expires may find it challenging to pay back rent. “The problem is that people can’t afford their rent, and a moratorium doesn’t solve that problem,” Willoughby says. “It doesn’t put money in people’s pockets, doesn’t make people able to pay the money that they owe.” Qualifying for the eviction moratorium doesn’t erase what you owe for missed rent payments.
The rental assistance funds are being distributed through a network of state and local programs and can be used to pay both rent and the back rent accrued during the pandemic.
To find help in your area, the NLIHC maintains a searchable database of nearly 400 Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) programs. Yentel also recommends calling 2-1-1, a 24/7 service for connecting those in need with programs that provide assistance for everything from housing costs to food and healthcare.
If you’re in need of legal representation or advice, there are places where you may be able to find help. The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) funds a number of programs that provide legal assistance to qualified households. You can search for a local LSC-funded organization here.
Your local bar association may also be able to connect you with organizations providing free legal services. The American Bar Association also maintains a directory of organizations that can connect you with free legal services. Tenant and housing laws vary from state to state, so having an expert in the local laws working with you can be invaluable. And you’ll want professional legal help if your landlord takes you to court to question the validity of the claims made on your declaration form. “How do you prove with certainty that you would become homeless if you’re evicted,” Yentel says.