The Incoming––and Current––Housing Crisis

No one is sure what will happen when the eviction moratorium ends. 

Last year’s difficulties following COVID-19 breakouts impacted so many around the world. Businesses, employees, students, and so many more had to face the effects of the pandemic’s hit to the economy. The housing market faced major issues when tenants who were financially impacted by COVID-19 were struggling to pay their rent.

With unemployment hitting an all time high in 2020, people were wondering how they were going to afford to pay their rent, so the Center for Disease Control announced their first order on September 4, 2020 that ensured a temporary halt would be placed on residential evictions to prevent further spread of COVID-19. This rent moratorium was supposed to end on December 31, 2020, but was later extended until January, which changed to March, then June, then extended and ended in July 2021. The moratorium provided $46.5 billion for emergency rental assistance. 

However, following the rent moratorium tenants were still concerned about the after effects. “One concern is that many tenants, even those who have returned to work, still can’t get caught up on the rent. The moratorium did not forgive rent, and for the most part allowed landlords to continue charging late fees. The balances are simply too high to overcome,” says Mary DeVries, Division Chief of the Housing Unit at Jacksonville Area Legal Aid (JALA). JALA is a non-profit law firm that provides free legal services to those who cannot afford them. According to DeVries, their clients are still reporting issues with accessing rent assistance causing delays in payments. Some landlords are not accepting said assistance programs as payment for anyone because of this.

When August 2021 came around and people were still struggling with the effects from the rent moratorium, the CDC made a second order to begin on August 3, 2021 which would halt evictions in communities with heightened transmission following the recent developments in COVID-19. The eviction moratorium was set to expire on October 3, 2021, however, it was terminated on August 26 by the United States Supreme Court. So, the moratoriums have both expired, what now?

Many wondered if the moratorium would actually help long-term, or if short-term solutions were going to cause problems when it was terminated, like the previous one for rentals. While the eviction moratorium did help by temporarily halting evictions for families that were hit with hardships during the pandemic, DeVries states, “these moratoriums were not paired early enough with sufficient rent assistance programs for tenants and landlords. Many tenants have returned to work, but they still couldn’t catch up with all their unpaid bills, including rent.” 

Now there is not much protecting tenants who are still struggling. Tenants who are facing eviction are now being rendered homeless, are in huge amounts of debt, and will most likely have problems securing housing in the future due to their financial difficulties. So what can these tenants do now? JALA is offering their aid and depending on the issue they offer individual advice and counsel, host legal assistance clinics, and provide direct representation to families. Their website offers many resources for those facing eviction and ways to gain more knowledge about the process

While tenants are suffering greatly, many landlords are also suffering financially. Landlords feel they are given no assistance while tenants’ bills are going unpaid causing financial difficulties for themselves. While billions of dollars has been allocated for assistance programs nationally, most of it has not been given out.

So what kind of solutions are out there for those facing evictions? According to DeVries, “Families who have been evicted are going to need help addressing the debts owed to former landlords, as well as addressing the records that exist relating to those debts so that they can access housing in the future.” As a tenant who’s behind on their rent, the first step is to ask the landlord for more time to come up with the money. If the landlord agrees, make sure you get it in writing and understand exactly what you’re agreeing to. There are programs offering rental assistance, but as previously mentioned, these programs have had delays in payments so be sure you do your research. 

If you’re a landlord struggling to collect rent and looking to evict your tenant, you must provide all notices then file a suit in court. Following that, further steps must be made if the court permits the eviction. Tenants must draft up a response to the lawsuit, as well. DeVries hope is that, “rent assistance will be made available in the future to address past debts. Hopefully, landlords will have to agree to update records relating to the debt in exchange for said assistance.”

If you are facing possible eviction in response to the pandemic, visit jaxlegalaid.org for more information.

If you are a tenant living in Florida and need to draft a response to an eviction lawsuit that can be filed in court, visit www.floridaevictionhelp.org.

About Molly Britt

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