States and cities around the country have decided to pause evictions and utility shutoffs during the coronavirus pandemic. But if you’re at risk of being evicted, a moratorium may be only a temporary protection.
There are some issues with the accommodations states and municipalities have presented, according to Alieza Durana. Durana works at The Eviction Lab at Princeton University, which is continually updating a list of places that have paused evictions and shutoffs.
“The mechanisms used to stop evictions, in most states, leave loopholes and/or do not 100% fix the situation,” she said.
There are a few scenarios that can impact people who are in the process of being evicted:
- In places where courts have halted eviction hearings, cases could pick back up within weeks.
- Landlords in some locations can still file evictions now to be heard later in the spring or summer.
- States that have issued moratoria may leave implementation up to local governments, which may confuse tenants looking for information.
- Landlords could still pressure tenants to move, or retaliate by neglecting their rental units.
The variation among policies can make it difficult to know what’s happening in your area—and what you need to do when. For instance, Durano said that in California, tenants must prove they can’t pay specifically because of COVID-19.
“Even if there is a moratorium, there’s still pressure,” Durano said, explaining that in most places it’s not clear what the next steps are for tenants and landlords after a moratorium is lifted.
The whole thing can be frustrating when you see that countries like Italy have halted all mortgage payments. Why not put similar measures in place here, and extend them to renters as well? Durano explained that it’s due in part to the decentralized system of government here in the U.S. And since the president hasn’t taken action at a federal level to enact a blanket ban on evictions, it sometimes becomes a question at the state level of who has authority to pause the process.
If you’re at risk of being evicted during or after the coronavirus outbreak, you can visit Just Shelter to find housing resources in your state. (Just Shelter was co-founded by Matthew Desmond, the author of Evicted and principal investigator at The Eviction Lab).
You can also search for low-cost legal help in your area via legal aid societies. LawHelp.org has a directory by state to help you find resources.