Most evictions are banned through June. What you need to know

  • The CDC announced this week that it was extending the national ban on evictions for another three months.
  • Who qualifies? What if your landlord ignores it?
  • Here's what you need to know.

Most renters struggling during the coronavirus pandemic won't have to worry about being pushed out of their homes for at least another three months.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has extended the national eviction ban that's been in place since September through the end of June.

Around 20% of adult renters said they didn't pay last month's rent, according to a survey published in March by the Census Bureau. Closer to 33% of Black renters reported the same.

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Here's what you need to know about the protection.

What does the ban do?

Under the moratorium, most tenants struggling to pay their rent amid the pandemic cannot be evicted through June 30.

Who's eligible?

Eligibility can be met in a few ways.

If you received a stimulus check in 2020 or 2021, didn't have to report any income to the IRS in 2020 or earned less than $99,000 as an individual or $198,000 as a joint filer, you're protected by the ban.

In addition, you'll need to attest on a declaration form that you're unable to make your full housing payment because of financial setbacks, including a substantial drop in income or high out-of-pocket medical expenses.

What do I have to do to invoke the protection? 

If you meet the above requirements, you have to sign this declaration and give it to your landlord.

"If a tenant cannot pay the rent, they should provide the declaration to their property owner as soon as possible," said Emily Benfer, an eviction expert and a visiting professor of law at Wake Forest University.

What if my landlord ignores it?

The CDC's eviction ban has been criticized for lacking adequate enforcement, and hundreds of thousands of people have been pushed out of their homes despite the policy.

That may soon change.

With this extension of the moratorium, regulators, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission, have vowed to crack down on violations by property owners. And on the new declaration form, landlords are threatened with fines and imprisonment if they don't comply.

If your landlord ignores the ban after you've given them the declaration, file a complaint with the CFPB. You should also promptly seek legal help.

Sometimes the paperwork you receive with the hearing date of your eviction will have the contact information for legal services in your area.

If not, you should be able to find your agency online, said Alexis Erkert, a lawyer at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services. "The court may also be able to give people contact information," Erkert said. 

You can find low-cost or free legal help regarding an eviction in your state at Lawhelp.org.

One study in New Orleans found that more than 65% of tenants with no legal representation were evicted, compared with fewer than 15% of those who did have a lawyer. 

Should I still pay my rent? 

Yes.

The CDC's order doesn't relieve you of your obligation to pay rent. You want to try your hardest to keep up with your bills during the pandemic to avoid racking up debt and being evicted come July.

Between the federal stimulus package passed in December and the one that passed this month, there's now more than $45 billion in financial assistance available to those who've fallen behind on their rent.

Get in line for the funds as soon as possible.

"Where or how to apply will vary city by city," Benfer said.

Many areas already had existing rental assistance funds, and it will be through one of these that you apply for the new aid. In other cases, new programs will be created to disburse the money, Benfer said.

"Renters should contact local housing groups, their representatives or the local 211/311 lines to identify programs and learn how to apply," she added.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition has a database of rental assistance programs, too.

At Justshelter.org, you can search for other community resources for people struggling to pay their rent.

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