Federal Eviction Ban Ends This Week. Here's What to Do if You Still Can't Pay Rent

by Maurie Backman | Published on July 28, 2021

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Many Americans are behind on housing payments as the eviction ban ends. If you're one of them, here are your next steps.

Since last year, there's been an eviction ban in place, preventing tenants from losing their homes because they can't pay rent. That ban has been extended several times, but it looks like the July 31 deadline is here to stay.

That's a problem, though -- according to CNBC, an estimated 16% of U.S. renters, or more than 11 million people, are still behind on their housing payments. And those who are behind on their rent risk losing their homes.

If you can't catch up on rent and face eviction, take steps to protect yourself and your personal finances as much as possible. Here's how.

1. Apply for rental assistance immediately

There's a $45 billion pool of federal rental assistance dollars allocated to help people who fell behind on their housing payments during the pandemic. So far, only around $3 billion has been given out.

If you haven't applied for rental assistance, do so as soon as possible. Some states have rules stating that once the federal ban runs out, landlords still cannot evict tenants who have applied for rental assistance but haven't received their funds.

To qualify for rental assistance, you need to show that at least one person in your household qualifies for unemployment benefits, has lost income during the pandemic, or has taken on significant expenses due to the pandemic. You also need to prove that you're at risk of becoming unhoused. If you have a letter from your landlord threatening eviction or showing how much rent is past due, that shouldn't be a problem. Also, your 2020 income can't exceed 80% of your area's median income.

The rental assistance funds are distributed via state-level programs. The National Low Income Housing Coalition has put together a list of programs giving out that money. Search for programs in your state, and apply right away.

If you qualify for aid, you could receive up to 18 months of rent. Usually, rental assistance funds go to your landlord's bank account, not yours. A landlord may refuse the funds, because some programs require property owners to agree not to evict tenants within a certain time after receiving that money, or not to raise rents within a certain period. However, if your landlord refuses the funds, you can ask to receive them directly.

If you apply for a program within your state and are denied, don't give up. Instead, apply for another program, if possible.

2. Read up on what your state is doing

Though the federal ban on evictions is set to expire at the end of July, some states have their own extended eviction bans. In New York, for example, evictions are barred until September. Familiarize yourself with what your state is doing, so you know your rights. You can consult this list of state housing departments to get more information.

If you're served with an eviction notice after July 31, don't just resign yourself to getting kicked out of your home. Instead, consult a lawyer who may be able to help you avoid that fate. Go to Lawhelp.org to find affordable or free legal assistance.

Facing eviction is scary. One final thing you should know, however, is that eviction is a process, and not something that happens overnight. In other words, the federal ban may be lifted after July 31, but that doesn't mean you'll be out on the street Aug. 1. There's a legal process your landlord must follow, and if you have any reason to believe your landlord is skirting the law, contact an attorney right away.

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