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Last eviction protection for renters ends today, with September rent days away – CNET

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If eviction protections are not renewed, we may see a housing crisis in the coming months.


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A national housing crisis could soon begin in earnest, as the last remaining eviction protection established by the CARES Act vanishes today with no replacement in sight. As of Aug. 24, tens of millions of renters who were protected from eviction will no longer be shielded against losing their homes for being late on rent payments. That includes the over 28 million workers claiming unemployment benefits as of August who recently lost the $600-per-week federal enhancement

Making things worse, the weekly federal unemployment bonus of up to $400 that President Donald Trump ordered in August hasn’t yet kicked in, leaving nearly half of all US renters at risk of eviction in the coming months, according to an analysis by Statista.

Without new or renewed protections or financial safeguards like expanded unemployment or a second round of stimulus checksas many as 40 million people could be displaced from their homes over the next year, according to the Aspen Institute — all during the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. That’s 12% of the US population, and equivalent to the entire population of California, the most populous US state. Some states still offer temporary emergency eviction protections, but many statutes, like California’s eviction stay, end soon.

Confusing the issue is Trump’s Aug. 11 executive order, which promised to look into evictions but stops short of outright preventing them. The order is not a renewal of eviction protections, as the text (excerpted below) makes clear. It isn’t known exactly when — or in what form — a new eviction moratorium might occur. Without the assurance of a future stimulus package, the situation could worsen.

We’ll walk you through everything we know, from the president’s executive order to how to find out if your home is protected under the current law, plus which resources and options are available to you if you’re facing a potential eviction now. We update this story often.

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If you’re worried about making rent, you aren’t alone. 


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What happens now?

When the CARES Act was signed into law in March, it halted evictions for a specific type of rental property, specifically those that received federal funds or were financed through a handful of federal programs that guarantee most mortgages. The way the law was written, landlords in properties covered by the act could not begin the eviction process against tenants for nonpayment of rent until July 25, at which point they had to give tenants 30 days’ notice of their intention to file for an eviction with the local courts — that date is Aug. 24.

This law, which is now lapsed, put an additional buffer between being late on rent and losing your home. It was designed to give families some time to square up with their landlord or work out alternative payment arrangements. Those 30 days have now come and gone, which means if you’ve received notice from your landlord that you need to either pay or vacate your home, today is the first day they can file an eviction against you with the court.

If that happens, it does not necessarily mean you have to move out of your home today, only that an eviction proceeding has been started against you. Depending on the laws where you live, as well as how backlogged the civil court docket is in your county, it could be days, weeks or possibly even months before a judge hears your case. That said, once a judgment is made against you and an eviction is ordered, again, depending on the laws where you live, you could have as few as two days or as long as a week or longer to pack your belongings and find somewhere else to live. 

Keep reading for resources that may be able to help.

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It’s still unclear how much cash Congress plans to put in American’s pockets with a second stimulus bill. But another round of direct payments is likely to be included.


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President Trump’s executive order doesn’t stop evictions 

The wording of the executive order only promises to look into the matter (emphasis ours), and does not halt evictions today:

The Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of CDC shall consider whether any measures temporarily halting residential evictions of any tenants for failure to pay rent are reasonably necessary to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 from one State or possession into any other State or possession.

The order stipulates four steps of government action, none of which would stop evictions immediately:

  • Investigate whether it’s necessary to stop evictions as a way to help keep the coronavirus from spreading, presumably from people crossing state lines looking for new housing, sharing housing with others or moving into shelters. 
  • Identify ways to give renters and landlords financial assistance.
  • Provide “assistance” to various organizations or individuals to help guard against evictions and foreclosures, though it isn’t clear if this includes financial help. 
  • Review existing “authorities and resources,” which could include government programs.

Although the order encourages the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to explore ways to fund financial assistance to tenants who are behind on rent, the executive order stops short of setting up such a fund or banning evictions. In other words, without further action from the Trump administration or Congress, nothing has really changed — yet.

Find out the status of eviction protection in your state 

Statewide eviction bans have mostly either already expired or will soon, many with no replacement in sight. Michigan, for example, let its eviction moratorium lapse, as have several other states. A handful of states never canceled evictions to begin with. 


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To help you find out the status of eviction protection in your state, legal services site Nolo.com maintains an updated list of state eviction provisions.

If you’re seriously delinquent or know you will be soon, you may want to consult a lawyer to better understand how laws in your area apply to your situation. Legal Aid provides attorneys free of charge to qualified clients who need help with civil matters such as evictions — you can locate the nearest Legal Aid office using this search tool

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Don’t have enough money to cover rent? First, you should see what protections are available in your area. Then, consider trying to work out a payment arrangement with your landlord.


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Ask your landlord for a reduction or extension

In almost all instances it’s probably best to work out an arrangement with your landlord or leasing agency, if at all possible. Although some landlords have reportedly reacted to the pandemic by putting even more pressure on tenants to pay upother landlords have risen to the occasion, some going so far as to stop collecting rent payments for a period of time. 

It may be worth approaching your landlord to see if you can pay less rent in the coming months, or spread payments for the next couple of months’ rent out over the next year. Just be wary of landlords who make excessive demands. For example, some have asked tenants to turn over their $1,200 stimulus check or any money received from charity as a condition for not filing an eviction order. Don’t agree to unreasonable conditions or terms you won’t be able to meet, especially if your city or state has enacted protections against such arrangements. 

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Although almost all Washington lawmakers agree there should be another round of direct payments (aka “stimulus checks”), Congress has yet to pass a bill authorizing the payments.


Sarah Tew/CNET

What you can do if you’re facing financial hardship right now

If you’re in need of immediate shelter or emergency housing, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development maintains a state-by-state list of housing organizations in your area. Select your state from the drop-down menu for a list of resources near you.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, many states and cities have expanded their available financial assistance for those who are struggling to pay rent. To see what programs might be available near you, select your state on this interactive map maintained by the National Low Income Housing Association.

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DoNotPay offers a variety of legal services, including financial relief relating to the coronavirus pandemic.


Screenshot by Dale Smith/CNET

Nonprofit 211.org connects those in need of help with essential community services in their area and has a specific portal for pandemic assistance. If you’re having trouble with your food budget or paying your housing bills, you can use 211.org’s online search tool or dial 211 on your phone to talk to someone who can try to help.

JustShelter.org is a nonprofit that puts tenants facing eviction in touch with local organizations that can help them to remain in their homes or, in worst-case scenarios, find emergency housing. 

The online legal services chatbot at DoNotPay.com has a coronavirus financial relief tool that it says will identify which of the laws, ordinances and measures covering rent and evictions apply to you based on your location. 

Finally, if you can no longer afford rent on your current home, relocation might be an option. Average rental prices have declined across the US since February, according to an August report by Zillow. Apps like ZillowTrulia and Zumper can help you find something more affordable. Just be aware that you may still be held responsible for any back rent you currently owe as well as any rent that accrues between now and the end of your lease (if you have one), whether or not you vacate.

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