For the millions of Americans who have filed for unemployment in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, state and federal moratoriums on evictions meant they didn’t have to worry about landing on the street.
The eviction moratorium instituted in September by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for people who can’t pay rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been extended until June 30. However, it doesn’t apply as a sweeping moratorium for all renters. With many states rolling back other protections and with limited resources for rental assistance that helps tenants and landlords, the state of rental housing is at risk.
“I don’t think any landlord I’ve ever known wants to kick people out,” says Steve Siebold, co-author of the book “How Money Works: Stop Being a Sucker.” Still, landlords have their own bills to pay and need to move out non-paying tenants.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of an eviction notice, here’s what to expect.
How Long Does an Eviction Take?
Eviction procedures vary from state to state and may even differ by county within a state. Pre-pandemic, an eviction in Phoenix could be completed in as little as three weeks, while those in California may have taken as long as six months, according to Nick Mertens, vice president of property management at Atlas Real Estate, a property management firm that oversees approximately 3,400 units in Colorado and Arizona.
While the timeline can vary, states generally follow the same basic steps. Tenants must first be provided an eviction notice. Then, a hearing is scheduled so a court order can be issued to require the tenant to vacate the premises. If the tenant does not leave voluntarily, a landlord typically must wait until a sheriff can accompany them to the property and enforce the eviction notice. Any landlord that locks a tenant out or tries to force tenants to vacate a rental home without going through the court system or waiting for the sheriff’s department is acting illegally, and the authorities should be notified.
With court cases paused for months during state shutdowns last spring, the eviction process, in some places, could take significantly longer than normal once cases resume.
“The courts are going to be so backlogged because there are a tremendous amount (of cases), so you may not get evicted for five or six months,” says Howard Dvorkin, personal finance expert, certified public accountant and chairman of Debt.com. Tenants may also find courts to be more sympathetic given the COVID-19 pandemic. “Judges, frankly, are not going to be that anxious to throw people on the street,” Dvorkin says.
But evictions are occurring even under the moratorium, and in some places the courts are moving as quickly as possible to try to get through the high volume of eviction cases. To be protected under the CDC eviction moratorium, a tenant must:
— Have tried to obtain government rental assistance.
— Have an expected 2020 income of less than $99,000 ($198,000 for joint filers), received a stimulus check under the CARES Act or not been required to report any income to the IRS in 2019.
— Be currently unable to pay rent in full due to loss of income or increased medical expenses.
— Be trying to make timely partial payments using his or her “best efforts.”
— Have no other housing options without posing a health risk, including living with others or resorting to homelessness.
— Understand that payment of rent is still required, and fees, penalties or interest for not paying rent may still accrue.
— Understand that at the end of the eviction moratorium, the landlord or housing provider may require full payment of all rent and fees that have built up, and failure to pay can result in eviction.
— Convey all these hardships to his or her landlord with a signed declaration created by the CDC. The updated moratorium notes that a previously submitted signed declaration is considered current, and tenants do not need to submit a new order. Any written document including the same information of the CDC’s declaration form may be used, and declarations translated to other languages are considered valid.
If you have received notice of an eviction hearing regardless of whether you meet the above criteria, you can still try to fight eviction. Contact local tenant rights organizations, inquire with a local legal aid or legal services office for representation and check your state and city government websites for information that may be able to help prevent eviction. This article will provide you with resources by state to help you get started.
The CDC’s order extending the moratorium through June 30 clarifies that evictions for certain other reasons cannot occur when the reason is linked to inability to pay rent or the COVID-19 pandemic. The specific scenarios the order prohibits are:
— Eviction for engaging in criminal activity while on the premises, but the alleged criminal activity is trespassing, when the reason for declaring trespassing is nonpayment of rent.
— Eviction for posing a health or safety threat to residents because the tenant has been exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19.
Finding Housing After an Eviction
If you know you’re going to be evicted, it can be beneficial to move before the formal process begins.
“It makes it really hard to rent again if you have an eviction on your record,” Mertens says. If you’re behind on payments and know you can’t catch up, a better option may be to strike a deal with the landlord or property management firm. They may be willing to drop the eviction proceedings if you agree to move out voluntarily and leave the unit in good condition.
However, if a formal eviction does take place, the best way to find housing later is to be honest about your previous situation. Most landlords will discover the eviction when conducting a background check, so it’s best to share that information before they find it themselves.
“Some landlords don’t want to hear your problems,” Dvorkin says. As a landlord himself, though, he says honesty can make a difference when considering a rental application. “I have found when people are upfront with me about past issues, I feel much better,” he says.
Even if a landlord is willing to overlook a past eviction, expect to pay more for a down payment or security deposit than what would otherwise be required.
How to Get an Eviction Off Your Record
Depending on whether your landlord reports to the credit bureaus or a financial judgment is entered against you by the court, evidence of your eviction could end up in your credit report. This information should drop off automatically after seven years.
A formal eviction also creates a court record, and this cannot be easily erased or hidden. The only way to remove the eviction from your record would be to have it expunged. Typically, the landlord would need to agree to that, which would mean settling any past due amount. Depending on your state’s rules, you may also be able to motion the court for an expungement if certain circumstances exist, such as if the property was in foreclosure or you moved out prior to the eviction being finalized.
There are lawyers who can help with these cases, but they may be expensive. “Who has money for a lawyer if you can’t pay your rent?” Siebold asks. He recommends trying to work with your landlord directly to reach a resolution, preferably before you are evicted and not after.
“I think goodwill goes a long way when it comes to eviction,” Siebold says. Offering collateral or partial payments are two ways to show a landlord that you’re committed to meeting your obligations. Keep a record of your communication and get any agreement in writing.
It’s better to avoid eviction in the first place than to try to remove it from your record later, Mertens says. What’s more, it’s in the landlord’s best interest to avoid an eviction, which can be a long and costly process. “It’s not good for the resident, and it’s not good for the property management company,” he explains. “No one wants (an eviction) to happen.”
By talking to your landlord now and making payment plan arrangements before state and federal protections are lifted, you might not have to worry about what to do if you get evicted.
Local Eviction Help and Getting Rental Assistance
In the COVID-19 pandemic, federal and state governments have allocated funds to provide emergency rental assistance to those who need it. In its announcement on March 28 extending the eviction moratorium through June 30, the CDC directed renters to two separate pages on the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s website for rental assistance resources:
Here’s where you can go to find more information about your state’s current eviction policies as well as contact information for legal services:
Legal Services Alabama provides eviction resources and updates related to eviction and the pandemic on its website.
Legal Services Alabama: 1-866-456-4995.
Alaska’s court system provides updated FAQs to help you navigate the issue of evictions during the pandemic here.
Anchorage residents, which make up nearly 40% of the state population, can call 211 to inquire about municipal rental and utilities assistance.
Arizona provides pandemic-related rental eviction prevention assistance, which residents can apply for online. Different organizations also offer varying types of legal aid throughout the state, with more information here.
Residents can also apply for eviction prevent assistance by calling 211 statewide.
You can find news and resources regarding evictions through Arkansas Legal Services Online here.
The free legal aid organizations for low-income residents in Arkansas are the Center for Arkansas Legal Services (501-376-3423) and Legal Aid of Arkansas (870-972-9224).
Information about financial help and fighting eviction in California during the pandemic can be found here.
Residents can also get more information on evictions through LawHelpCA.org.
Colorado’s Department of Local Affairs provides resources for residents needing help with potential eviction or foreclosure. More information can be found here.
Residents looking for help through the Emergency Housing Assistance Program, or EHAP, must apply through a local agency, which can be found by dialing 211 in Colorado, or visiting 211Colorado.org.
Connecticut has established a Temporary Rental Housing Assistance Program, and residents can apply for help here.
By calling 211 (or visiting 211ct.org) in Connecticut, you can get access to community services, including rental assistance and legal services.
Information about the Delaware Housing Assistance Program can be accessed here.
Delaware’s Legal HelpLink can be contacted by calling 302-478-8850.
District of Columbia
The District of Columbia’s Office of the Tenant Advocate provides updated information about tenant rights during the pandemic here.
D.C.’s Office of the Tenant Advocate can also be reached by phone at 202-719-6560.
Florida residents seeking rental assistance can visit the Florida Housing Finance Corporation’s website for information about how to apply.
Contact information for legal aid in Florida is listed through the Florida Bar, the state’s bar association, and can be accessed here.
Georgia’s legal aid organization provides resources for renters and homeowners here.
Residents can contact Georgia Legal Services by calling 404-206-5175.
The Hawaii State Judiciary offers resources and information about avoiding eviction during the pandemic here.
By calling 211 in Hawaii, residents will be connected with Aloha United Way, a free hotline for anyone looking for information, referrals and help on just about anything, including rental assistance or legal aid.
Idaho Legal Aid Services Inc. provides updates and resources on issues related to COVID-19 here. The website also provides information for applying for legal representation through the organization.
Idaho residents can apply for legal aid services over the phone by calling 208-746-7541.
Illinois Legal Aid Online provides updated information about housing during the pandemic here.
Legal aid options in Illinois are made locally available by county. Illinois Legal Aid Online provides search help and contact information for the right legal services for you here.
Indiana policy and updates regarding housing and the pandemic is available here.
Indiana Legal Services Inc. allows residents to apply for free legal help by phone at 844-243-8570, or online here.
Iowa Legal Aid provides updated information and resources here.
The Iowa Finance Authority is providing assistance for renters and homeowners struggling to make housing payments. You can reach the organization by calling 515-348-8813.
Kansas Legal Services is providing up-to-date information about the pandemic and what people need to know here.
You can also apply for legal assistance through Kansas Legal Services by calling 800-723-6953.
The Kentucky Housing Corporation provides eviction relief, financial assistance and legal services resources here.
Legal aid organizations across the state have created a COVID-19 legal helpline for Kentucky residents to call: 833-540-0342.
The Louisiana Housing Corporation offers information about COVID-19 rent relief here.
The Louisiana Housing Corporation can be reached by phone by dialing 225-763-8700.
MaineHousing, or the Maine State Housing Authority, had a COVID-19 rent relief program that ended in September. However, additional resources through the organization can be accessed here.
Maine’s Lawyer Referral Service will connect you with an attorney at 800-860-1460, though this service is not free. Legal aid organizations that are more locally based and focus on specific issues are listed here.
The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development offers guidance for renters affected by COVID-19 here.
The Department of Housing and Community Development advises any residents facing housing needs, utility shutoffs and family or financial issues to call 211 for resources.
Housing help and rental assistance resources in Massachusetts are available here.
To find legal resources that meet your needs, you’ll need to look at local options. Search here to find the right legal aid.
The Michigan government addresses housing-related questions regarding the pandemic here.
Michigan Legal Services can be contacted at 313-964-4130.
Resources for eviction protection and housing assistance can be found here.
Renters in need of legal assistance can call the Minnesota nonprofit focused on tenant advocacy, HOME Line, at 612-728-5767.
Mississippi residents can apply for legal aid through the Mississippi Center for Legal Services here.
Residents also have the option to call the Mississippi Center for Legal Services at 800-498-1804.
Missouri residents can find details about the judiciary response to the pandemic through the Missouri Courts website.
Missouri Legal Services provides contact information for legal aid offices throughout the state here.
Montana’s official state guidance on housing matters during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found here.
Rent and mortgage assistance is available to qualified residents, with applications due Nov. 10, 2020. The state website recommends contacting nonprofit NeighborWorks Montana if you need help applying: 406-604-4500.
Legal Aid of Nebraska has up-to-date resources and information for tenants affected by the coronavirus here.
Legal Aid of Nebraska’s COVID-19 and disaster relief hotline is 844-268-5627.
Nevada’s state government provides links to information regarding the pandemic for consumers, including community resources and unemployment information, here.
Phone numbers and email addresses for Nevada Legal Services offices throughout the state can be found here.
Residents can inquire about and apply for the New Hampshire Housing Relief Program here.
Residents can call the Legal Advice and Referral Center to inquire about legal aid and resources at 800-639-5290.
Information on rental property and evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic for New Jersey residents is available here.
Residents needing legal help for a civil matter, including rent-related issues, can apply to Legal Services of New Jersey by calling 888-576-5529, or apply online here.
New Mexico residents who are in need of assistance, housing included, can get information here.
New Mexico residents can apply for legal help through New Mexico Legal Aid by calling 833-545-4357.
Updates and information regarding eviction moratoriums and housing assistance for New York can be found here.
New York State Homes and Community Renewal has a dedicated COVID Rent Relief Program Call Center, which can be reached at 833-499-0318.
The North Carolina Judicial Branch provides COVID-19 information for landlords and tenants here.
Legal Aid of North Carolina can be reached at 866-219-LANC.
Housing-related resources and information for North Dakota residents during the pandemic can be found here.
North Dakota residents can apply for legal help through Legal Services of North Dakota by calling 800-634-5263, or visiting the organization’s website.
Ohio Legal Help offers resources and information about housing during the pandemic on its website.
In additional to Ohio Legal Help’s website, residents can get in touch with the closest legal aid office by calling 866-529-6446.
Oklahoma residents in need of rental assistance can apply through the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency. That information and other housing-related resources can be accessed here.
Oklahoma residents seeking legal aid can apply by calling 888-534-5243.
Oregon residents looking for COVID-19 updates, including housing and homelessness concerns, can visit the state government website.
Oregon Law Center, which provides legal services for low-income Oregonians, provides contact information for legal aid offices by location throughout the state here.
The Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania provides rental assistance and eviction information regarding the pandemic for Pennsylvania residents here.
The Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network provides contact information for legal aid providers throughout the state here.
Rhode Island’s information and resources related to the pandemic and rental or mortgage assistance can be found here.
Rhode Island residents can call 211 to get information about the requirements for securing rental assistance.
The South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, which specializes in social, legal and economic justice for low-income South Carolinians, provides updated information and resources about different aspects of the pandemic here.
South Carolina residents needing legal help can apply for representation through South Carolina Legal Services at 888-346-5592.
The South Dakota Housing Development Authority provides updates about evictions and rental assistance policies during the pandemic on its website — scroll down to “latest news” for the most relevant information.
South Dakota residents in need of legal help can find contact information for their local legal services office here.
The Tennessee government’s website includes a page for renters that discusses renter rights generally as well as necessary information during the pandemic.
There are a handful of regionally located Tennessee Legal Aid Services offices throughout the state. Phone numbers for each location are located here.
The Texas State Law Library website provides detailed information and resources about current eviction policy here.
The Texas Judicial Branch provides contact information for regionally located legal aid programs and services here.
Up-to-date information on current eviction policy and resources for both landlords and tenants is provided through the Utah court system here.
Utah Legal Services can be reached by calling 800-662-4245.
Information and resources for Vermont residents is available through the state’s Agency of Commerce and Community Development here.
Legal Services Vermont can be reached by calling 800-889-2047 or filling out this form.
Many individual counties in Virginia are providing more location-specific housing information as it relates to the pandemic. For the whole of Virginia, the Virginia Poverty Law Center provides detailed information and resources here.
The VPLC’s eviction legal helpline is 833-663-8428.
Washington provides information and resources as it relates to individuals and family during the coronavirus pandemic, including rent assistance, moratorium details and other valuable financial assistance options here.
Washington residents can call 211 for tenant resources regarding legal help, eviction protection or rental assistance in their area.
Legal Aid of West Virginia provides information and answers questions regarding COVID-19 and evictions here.
West Virginia residents seeking legal help can apply to Legal Aid of West Virginia by calling 866-255-4370.
Wisconsin answers frequently asked questions regarding landlords, tenants and COVID-19 here.
Wisconsin residents seeking legal aid regarding housing issues in the pandemic can inquire with Legal Action of Wisconsin by calling 855-947-2529.
Wyoming provides updated information and links to resources for individuals facing financial hardship during the pandemic here.
Wyoming’s statewide legal hotline provides information and can direct you to the right place for legal help: 877-432-9955.
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Update 03/31/21: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.