Evictions Often Lead to Homelessness: Find Out If You’re Covered by Eviction Laws. Here’s How.

Eviction Moratorium

If the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us one thing for certain, it is that the whole world can be altered overnight. In just three short months, many things have changed, from the way we dress and greet each other to the way we learn, work, and occupy our time. Moving forward, we might think twice before using age-old expressions like “steady job”, “fixed mortgage” or “stable home” as we’ve learned that these terms are flawed. In reality, nothing’s guaranteed.

As of mid-May, the US economy has taken a crippling blow, boosting a record high unemployment rate exceeding 23 million individuals and effecting households all across the nation. In order to soften that blow, housing advocates quickly scrambled to ensure the safety of hard-working Americans, many of whom are still being urged to shelter in place, an expression that, in and of itself, underlines the need for safe, reliable places to shelter.

As the pandemic progresses, ordinances, stimuluses, and moratoriums are constantly being presented so that Americans who might have lost their jobs will not have to worry about also losing their homes.

Yet even with such safeguards in place, some landlords and lenders are not playing by the rules.

Whether you rent or own, whether you’re unemployed or underemployed, whether you’re behind on the rent or just barely scraping by, you have every right to be made aware of these new protections. You never know when you might need to take advantage of them.

Below you will find a brief overview of COVID-related legislation to help you fight eviction and avoid becoming homeless.

The CARES Act Eviction Moratorium

Drafted into Law on March 27, 2020

What It Is

The Eviction Moratorium of The CARES Act bans the eviction of residents in public housing programs including federally subsidized apartments backed by HUD, Section 8, and those administered by the Office of Public and Indian Housing. This moratorium also extends to residents in federally-assisted mortgage properties such as Freddie Mac and Fannie May homes where applicable.

What It Covers

As of late, it provides a 120-day grace period on rental payments and bars any penalties including nonpayment or late fees. This grace period must be extended to all tenants regardless of whether their employment was adversely affected by the COVID-19 crisis. It’s important to note that during this ordained timespan, landlords are permitted to evict tenants for other reasons. These include drug abuse or disruptive behavior. They can also legally proceed with evictions that are the result of missed payments that occurred prior to March 27. While these proceedings are being discouraged, they have not been officially or legally barred.

The Fine Print

Section 4024 of The CARES Act covers properties owned by third parties and private owners that receive assistance from the PIH program. In many situations, this section also protects against foreclosure for residents with federally backed mortgage loans.

While a vast majority of United States residents are covered by the CARES Act, it is not without limitations. Residents who fall behind on rent or mortgage payments amid the COVID-19 outbreak will eventually be responsible for paying back rent although it will be void of fees and other penalties. The March 27 Moratorium does expire, leaving residents approximately three months to catch up on their payments. This could prove difficult in a spiraling and uncertain economy. As it stands right now, landlords are permitted to proceed with evictions beginning July 24, 2020.

Additionally, The CARES Act does not cover families residing in properties that don’t have a federally-backed mortgage in place. If you fall under this category of US residents, please refer to the FHA Single Family Housing COVID-19 FAQ page. Here you will find a breakdown of foreclosure and eviction moratoriums as they apply to single family mortgages. In short, such families are entitled to:

  • A maximum 60-day mortgage grace period
  • Loss mitigation assistance
  • Future COVID-related mortgage relief packages
  • Forbearance and more

The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s Got You Covered. Use Their Map to Search for Your Home.

The NLIHC worked tirelessly to provide a map and searchable database consisting of HUD, Fannie May, Freddie Mac, and other federally-backed rental properties that must comply with CARES COVID-19 coverage. To use it, simply navigate to the NLIHC website, search your city or zip code and scroll through the listings to find your rental community. If you don’t see your address listed on the website, don’t automatically assume you don’t have coverage. Some properties slip through the cracks and the database is constantly being updated. Small properties consisting of one to four units are unlikely to appear on the chart. Landlords who hold stake in more than one rental community might only have one of their properties listed by default.

Housing Is Healthcare. Stay Well and Stay Connected

In these trying times, it’s important to remember that homelessness exacerbates illness with or without an ongoing pandemic. When we create safe, affordable homes for our homeless neighbors, we accomplish all of the following as a result:

  • Taking a strain off the hospital and healthcare systems. Homeless people are always more vulnerable to illness. This causes them to need more emergency medical assistance than the average US resident. Why not flatten the curve by making affordable housing a top priority?
  • Creating a more hygienic atmosphere. Homeless people don’t always have access to the hygienic solutions many of us take for granted. When a person has housing, they have hygiene in the form of running water, storage for their belongings, and a personal space that is easily maintained and not littered with other people’s garbage.
  • Creating a place for people to connect with the rest of the world. Many housed people have never experienced isolation prior to the recent pandemic. On the other hand, isolation is a huge aspect of life for most people in the homeless community. It is so much so that homelessness can make one feel “invisible”, hence the name of our organization. When homeless people acquire housing, they become part of a community. This makes them less susceptible to mental health issues like depression and anxiety. It also helps them connect with the rest of the world.

Did you know that because of stigmas and isolation, many homeless members of Invisible People’s Facebook group were unaware of the pandemic when the nationwide shutdown was first initiated? Can you imagine how terrifying and dangerous that must have felt? We cannot afford to have a whole population of people so cut off from the world that they don’t even know when there’s an international emergency.

Talk to your local representatives about their plans for opening up your state with better housing options for all.


Cynthia Griffith

Cynthia Griffith

     

Cynthia Griffith is a freelance writer dedicated to social justice and environmental issues.

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