It’s August 1st and the rent is due. That’s a big one for many Americans unable to pay their rent but protected from eviction by a state moratorium. Now those protections are gone.
Due to the widespread job loss and health risks posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, many tenants in the US struggled to make their rent payments every month at the start of the pandemic in early 2020 to be driven out right in the middle. As part of that response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put in place a moratorium in September 2020 preventing landlords from quitting their tenants regardless of whether they can pay their monthly rent in full or at all.
The moratorium was already on loan last month as the Supreme Court had warned not to extend tenant protection beyond the end of July. Several judges, including Justice Brett Kavanaugh, supported this. “In my view, clear and specific approval from Congress (through new legislation) would be required for the CDC to extend the moratorium beyond July 31,” wrote Kavanaugh. The Biden administration challenged the Supreme Court decision on Thursday, two days before the program expired, by formally asking Congress to approve an extension. However, Congress should have passed a new law to create an extension, and not in time for its departure in August, so the moratorium has officially expired.
No more eviction protection means paying late rent, money that tenants don’t have
That changes for tenants who now have to reckon with their landlords, some of whom have not received regular rent for almost a year. Tenants are now required to pay missed payments, and in some states, the landlord is owed interest on arrears for any delay in payment since the moratorium went into effect. Utilities are a bit of a gray area, but generally when the landlord is is responsible for paying for a particular utility, in most cases they are not allowed to turn it off.
Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) was at the forefront of the fight for a further extension of the moratorium. As a former homeless person who was also threatened with eviction in the past, she loudly spoke out in favor of an extension of the moratorium and slept on the steps of the US Capitol on Friday evening in protest. “I’m dirty, sticky, sweaty. I still have what I was wearing last night. This is how people have to live when we do nothing … they deserve human dignity and have people who represent them come up and do the work to make sure that basic needs are met today, ”she told CNN’s Jessica Dean on Saturday.
It is 2 o’clock on Sunday. We haven’t slept since Thursday night. The eviction moratorium has expired, so we are now in an evacuation emergency. 11 million are now at risk of losing their homes at any time.
The House must come together again and put an end to this crisis.
– Cori Bush (@CoriBush) August 1, 2021
According to a study by the Aspen Institute and the Covid-19 Eviction Defense Project published in August last year, almost 40 million Americans were at risk of eviction. People of Color were and are disproportionately at risk, as they are twice as likely to be tenants. And the pressure Covid-19 added only made the statistics worse. A June report by City Life / Vida Urbana and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that in the first month of the Massachusetts state of emergency during the pandemic, 78 percent of eviction requests in Boston were in communities of color.
People with lower-income households are also at greater risk, as they have less savings to pay the rent and were more likely to be employed in industries affected by Covid. The moratorium was meant to help people like this in need of protection.
But although politicians like Cori Bush are fighting to bring the moratorium back, it was never a complete solution: tenants would have to pay again at some point, regardless of whether their individual circumstances had changed or not, while landlords could make ends meet without rental income.
To remedy this, Congress provided $ 25 billion in rental aid in December, and an additional $ 21.5 billion was added in March. This was a welcome relief for renters and landlords alike, but the problem was getting the money to the people who needed it quickly. Confusion at the federal level about how this amount of money should be distributed and which of the many programs would handle the distribution has also slowed aid delivery. As Jerusalem Demsas of Vox reports, many tenants in need simply did not know that they were entitled to a rent reduction and when they did, some were unable to provide the necessary documentation for their work or not due to their turbulent living conditions and lack of formal documentation. traditional leases.
The tenants weren’t sure whether the money for rent reduction would get to them on time
While more than $ 1.5 billion was paid out to eligible applicants in the month of June, exceeding the amount allocated in all three previous reporting periods, the US Treasury Department said it was only $ 3 billion of the total allocated US $ 45 billion -Dollars distributed. Now that the federal moratorium has expired, at least four states – Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, and Oregon – have temporarily resumed evictions against those with a pending rental grant application. These government decisions give tenants time to receive their rent reduction allowance if otherwise they could face an immediate eviction. But tenants in states following the expired federal moratorium face heavy back rent payments and, if unable to make the payment, possible eviction.
“There are many evictions of tenants who have already been approved for rental assistance,” K’Lisha Rutledge, an attorney with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, told the Texas Tribune. “And your landlord knows they’ve been approved and they’re just waiting for the check.”
It may be easy to see landlords as villains in this situation, but renters aren’t the only ones having problems. Forty-one percent of all rental homes in the US, and most affordable housing options, are owned by individuals or mom-and-pop landlords, and the rent they receive from their tenants is often a large part of their own income. This means that the moratorium has eased pressure from tenants by putting more pressure on landlords who still have to pay their bills themselves.
As Voxs Jerusalem Demsas wrote:
“The loss of more of America’s already dwindling affordable housing stock is an impending emergency that could worsen if small landlords are forced to act as welfare states without financial support.”
Possibly the end of the moratorium means money in the pockets of landlords, but there are still roadblocks. California allows landlords to only be paid what they owe from previous months without rent if they waive 20 percent of the subsequent rent. and Some landlords have suffered such a blow that they are forced to sell their property, eliminating the possibility of subletting as a future source of income.
With over 50 percent of the US population vaccinated, now seems like the right time to end the benefits of the moratorium. But Americans who suffered a financial blow or lost their jobs during the height of Covid-19 may still need assistance. The rise in the Covid-19 Delta variant is also worrying, as research has shown evictions lead to a higher likelihood of Covid-19 infection and death.
Concerns about the Delta option were also the main reason for the Biden administration’s push for an extension of the moratorium. “Given the recent proliferation of the Delta variant, including among Americans, who are most likely to face evictions and have no vaccinations, President Biden would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to further extend this eviction moratorium to protect tenants from heightened vulnerability at this point the White House said in a statement.
Based on the decision of the Supreme Court and a lack of action by the Biden administration and Congress, this support is insufficient. With over $ 40 billion in rental relief undistributed and a threat to public health still looming, tenants are once again at risk.