Emily Benfer on the Incoming Wave of COVID-19 Evictions
Some states have limited their moratoriums to tenants who can prove the reason for nonpayment of rent is related to COVID-19 hardship. This is an affirmative defense to eviction that tenants may not know about. At the same time, limiting eviction moratoriums to a certain part of the renter population leaves millions of tenants vulnerable to eviction.
Moratoriums vary in the level of protection offered, and many allow landlords to continue to file eviction cases, which harms the renter — even when he or she is not ultimately evicted. They are also quickly expiring: In 23 states, tenants lack state-level protection from eviction.
And it's important to note that declining rent payments are more likely to affect small landlords, who, like their renters, lack the financial cushion to ride out the pandemic.
Civil right to counsel is proven to reduce the number of executed evictions and default judgments dramatically. In the current environment, it will help to ensure that tenants and the courts are aware of moratorium requirements and, most importantly, that the tenant can exercise her right to be heard.
On a federal level, the Heroes Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is pending in the Senate. It provides over $100 billion in rental assistance paid directly to landlords.
It creates 100,000 additional housing choice vouchers, extends unemployment insurance, and establishes a 12-month moratorium on evictions nationwide. It's endorsed by property owner associations and housing advocates alike.