Protesters gather at a July 22 rally in Boston in support of legislation to block evictions in Massachusetts for up to a year.
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If you’re facing eviction during the pandemic, you’re definitely not alone.
Even as unemployment levels remain at historic highs and cases of the virus show no sign of abating, statewide eviction moratoriums in more than 30 states have now lifted and protections for renters in the CARES Act are gone.
Still, you may be entitled to protections.
For example, many courts have moved to remote hearings during the public health crisis. But some courts require that both parties agree to a virtual hearing, and if they don’t, the case won’t be scheduled until the hearings move back to the courtroom, said Emily Benfer, an eviction expert and a visiting professor of law at Wake Forest University.
“This is, in effect, a moratorium, provided tenants know their rights,” Benfer said.
In some states where the state-wide moratorium on evictions has lapsed, some towns, cities and counties have established their own protections for renters. You can find out what policies apply to you in this database Benfer continues to update. Your landlord might not know of them, or be ignoring them.
Meanwhile, at Justshelter.org, you can search for community resources for people at risk of eviction.
And some states and cities have funds allocated to help people stay in their homes.
Arizona earmarked $5 million for that purpose. Residents in Delaware can apply for up to $1,500 in rental assistance. Similar relief measures were made available to those in Montana, Ohio, Iowa and New York.
If you’re accepted for the assistance, make sure to let your landlord know right away.
Unfortunately, these funds are limited and go quickly.
Try to get a lawyer before your hearing. One study in New Orleans found that more than 65% of tenants with no legal representation were evicted, compared to fewer than 15% of those who did have a lawyer.
Sometimes the paperwork you receive with your hearing date will have the contact information for legal services in your area. If not, you should be able to find your agency online, said Alexis Erkert, a lawyer with Southeast Louisiana Legal Services.
“The court may also be able to give people contact information,” Erkert said.
No matter what — and whether it’s telephonic, over video or in-person — try to be present at your hearing, Erkert said.
“A lot of tenants don’t show up, which means they will get a default judgment against them,” she added. “If they show up, many judges will at least give them extra time to move.”
Have you applied for a rental assistance program where you live? How did it go? Please email me about your experience at email@example.com