The clock is ticking on a looming national housing crisis. Starting Aug. 24, millions of renters who were shielded against eviction by the according to an analysis by Statista.will no longer be protected. Add to that the 30 million or so workers on unemployment who and the result is that nearly half of all US renters may be at risk of eviction in the coming months,
Without further protection or assistance, that means as many as 40 million people could be displaced from their homes over the next year, according to the Aspen Institute — all in the midst of the . Some states may still offer temporary emergency eviction protections, but many, like California’s eviction stay, end soon.
Adding to the confusion is President Donald Trump’sabout evictions, which isn’t 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 happen. Without the assurance of a , the situation could worsen.
We’re going to 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.
Trump’s executive order does not 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.
Does the Aug. 24 eviction stay apply to you?
If you live in a property covered by the CARES Act, landlords can now legally ask you to leave and start charging late fees, but the soonest they can legally file an eviction to force you to leave is Aug. 24.
The CARES Act protected only about one-third of rental properties in the US, specifically those that received federal funds or were financed under a federal program like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. It isn’t clear if Congress will broaden the scope of properties covered under any new laws or what limitations the departments of Treasury or Housing might place on any orders coming from them.
Here’s where things get tricky: If your landlord owns your building outright or financed the property without going through the handful of federal programs that guarantee most mortgages and doesn’t get any government assistance like Section 8 money, the CARES Act didn’t apply to your situation.
For tenants of single-family homes or of apartments in buildings with four or fewer units, it’s going to be tough to find out whether this or a similar law applies to you. But if you live in a multifamily property with five or more units, there’s a tool published by the National Low Income Housing Coalition that’s designed to tell you if the property where you live was covered under the CARES Act. Try entering your ZIP code and scrolling through the list of properties looking for yours. (Searching within the page didn’t work for us.)
Just because your building isn’t listed doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t covered — the tool only tracks properties with five or more units and it might not even cover all of those. So if you rent a single-family house or an apartment in a building with four or fewer units, it may not be listed even if the property fell under the CARES Act.
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.
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.
Try asking 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 up, other 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. As renters across the country organize rent strikes and more community leaders push for rent freezes, your landlord may prefer such an arrangement to not receiving any rent at all.
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.
What to do today if you’re facing financial hardship
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.
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.
The online legal services chatbot at DoNotPay.com has a 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 Zillow, Truila 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.