Most evictions in the U.S. are now banned. What you need to know

Personal Finance

As the pandemic rages on, many people have one less thing to worry about: Getting evicted.

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What does the ban do?

It bans evictions due to non-payment of rent in most residential properties between Sept. 4 and Dec. 31. 

Who’s eligible?

You’ll need to attest on a declaration form that you expect to earn less than $99,000 a year in 2020 (for couples, less than $198,000), that you have received a stimulus check or that you weren’t required to pay income taxes in 2019.

You’ll also need to confirm that you tried to get any available government housing assistance, that you’re unable to make rent due to “substantial loss of household income,” a lay-off or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses, that being evicted would require you to double up with others or become homeless and that you promise to make partial payments to the best of your ability.

It doesn’t appear that documentation will be required.

What do I have to do? 

If renters meet the above requirements, they’ll have to sign a declaration form and give it to their landlord. You should try to give the form to your landlord in-person. Make sure to keep a copy for yourself. 

“If a tenant cannot pay the rent, they should provide the declaration to their property owner as soon as possible,” said Emily Benfer, an eviction expert and visiting professor of law at Wake Forest University.

What if my landlord ignores it?

If your landlord ignores the ban after you’ve given them the declaration, immediately seek legal help.

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 at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services. 

“The court may also be able to give people contact information,” Erkert said. 

You can find low-cost or free legal help regarding an eviction in your state at Lawhelp.org.

What if I’m in the process of being evicted?

The CDC bans “any action to effectuate an eviction for non-payment of rent,” Benfer said.

Therefore, if you’re in the process of being evicted for that reason, you should now be able to stay in your home through the end of the year. 

What if my state already has an eviction moratorium in place? 

Around 10 states have eviction protections that are even more comprehensive than the CDC’s, Benfer said.

The nationwide action doesn’t change your local laws, Benfer said. Those are still in place.

For example, while the CDC’s moratorium doesn’t prevent landlords from charging late fees, that practice is prohibited in New York. The CDC’s policy doesn’t stop property owners from reporting your non-payment to the credit scoring companies, but a statewide rule in Connecticut does. 

You can find out what local policies apply to you on the Eviction Lab’s website

Should I still pay my rent? 

An eviction ban will protect most tenants until 2021.

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Yes. The CDC’s order doesn’t relieve you of your obligation to pay rent. 

You want to try your hardest to keep up with your bills during the pandemic to avoid racking up debt and being evicted come January. 

At Justshelter.org, you can search for community resources for people struggling to pay their rent.

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 MontanaOhioIowa and New York.

Look for and apply for any available assistance in your area. 

Meanwhile, many landlords are showing a willingness to work with tenants who ask for payment plans, experts say. 

What will happen when the ban expires? 

At that time, you’ll likely be asked by your landlord to pay any past-due rent. If you don’t do so, you could face eviction. 

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