- States have given out billions of dollars of rental assistance funds since spring 2021.
- Despite that, many renters are still facing eviction threats from their landlords.
Many people are still at risk of losing their homes.
When the COVID-19 outbreak first erupted, millions of jobs were shed within weeks, to the point where the national unemployment rate reached its highest level on record. To prevent a widespread homelessness crisis, an eviction ban was put into place that barred landlords from removing tenants from their homes on the sole basis of non-payment.
The federal eviction ban expired during the summer of 2021, but some cities and states opted to extend their own protections beyond that point. However, those protections are running out -- and so is landlords' patience.
Many landlords saw their own finances take a hit during the pandemic. And while some landlords may have had the option to put their own mortgages into forbearance and pause those payments for a period of time, that didn't help them cover their remaining bills in the absence of rental income.
Meanwhile, the last two stimulus bills passed allocated an estimated $46.5 billion to the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The purpose of the program was to help tenants catch up on rent to avoid being kicked out of their homes.
So far, a lot of that aid has been given out already. But many tenants are still waiting on rent relief applications to be approved. Even those who have gotten rent relief are still at risk of eviction or homelessness for one big reason.
A temporary solution
The Emergency Rental Assistance Program may have helped a large number of Americans avoid eviction temporarily. But it doesn't change the fact that across the U.S., there's a glaring lack of affordable housing. Given the way rents have soared recently, a lot of people are now in a situation where despite having gotten caught up on past-due rent, they're still at risk of being evicted due to not being able to afford their rent currently and having no cheaper housing options to look at instead.
Compounding the problem is the fact that many landlords are refusing to accept the rent relief funds being paid to them under the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. In fact, last fall, the National Housing Law Project found that 86% of respondents reported cases where landlords either refused to accept those funds or attempted to evict tenants despite having received them.
The reason a landlord might choose to reject rental assistance funds is clear. If the tenant in question still can't pay, it could make more financial sense to move forward with an eviction than risk many more months of nonpayment.
And to be clear, landlords aren't necessarily the evil villain in this sage. Many landlords saw their own finances upended during the pandemic and are now trying to recover. That doesn't excuse those landlords who are violating the rules and illegally trying to evict tenants. But it does explain why there's such bad blood between landlords and tenants at this stage of the game.
Tenants need to protect themselves
If you're facing eviction, it pays to contact your state housing agency and see if rent relief funds are available where you live. It also pays to visit lawhelp.org for resources on low-cost or free legal aid. Getting a professional involved could help you avoid losing your home and help you better understand your rights and options.
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