As eviction moratorium expires, some renters face greater risk

A nationwide moratorium on evictions is set to expire on Saturday, putting millions of people at risk of losing their homes.

Housing advocates warn that a wave of evictions could be coming, with as many as 11 million people behind on their rent, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank. The CBPP estimated that about 16% of U.S. households were behind on rent — double the pre-pandemic level.

But the rent burden is spread unequally around the country. 

In some states, more than a quarter of renters are behind on payments, according to CPBB calculations. The Southeast is the hardest hit: 29% of renters in Mississippi and 28% in South Carolina were behind in the first week of July, according to the CBPP’s calculations. In Georgia, 1 in 4 isn’t caught up on rent.

“The more renters that you have that are struggling, as a proportion of the population, the more strain it can put on local communities,” said Aaron Dibner-Dunlap, a senior research scientists at Surgo Ventures, a public-health nonprofit. 

Surgo Ventures identified 250 counties where more than 1 in 5 renters were behind, which Surgo dubbed most at risk. The list includes all but four counties in South Carolina, and roughly half the counties in Georgia and Mississippi. None of the states currently have eviction protections in place beyond the federal government’s CDC’s order.

Nationwide, Black renters are more than twice as likely to be behind on rent than their White counterparts, according to the CBPP, while Latino and Asian renters are one-and-a-half times as likely. Historically, Black renters have faced eviction at the highest rates.

How quick to evict?

The eviction surge that’s expected to begin after the national moratorium’s July 31 deadline will hit unevenly across the country, housing advocates say. But it’s been building throughout the pandemic.

In some jurisdictions, courts have allowed eviction cases to proceed even while the federal moratorium has been in place, noted Eric Dunn, director of litigation at the National Housing Law Project. (The moratorium only prevents the physical ejection of a tenant, not the legal process to evict.)

That means some landlords “have evictions all teed up and ready to go,” Dunn said. “The landlord already has the eviction order in hand, and just has to wait until the CDC restriction is lifted to have it physically executed.”

“You could see people basically being put out on the street the first week of August, because there’s no remaining procedures to go through,” he said. 

Eviction moratorium expires this week 04:11

At the other extreme, seven states will continue to have renter protections for at least another month — some for much longer.

In New Jersey, renters can’t be evicted until January 2022. New Mexico’s state supreme court has halted evictions with no end date planned. California, Minnesota and Washington state have protections in place until October, while evictions in Illinois and New York are paused until September. Two other states, Hawaii and Maryland, have eviction protections set to expire in mid-August.

Rent aid slow to get out

In Las Vegas, Angela Young is feeling the crunch. Young, 59, fell behind on rent last summer, after her grandmother, with whom she lived and was a primary caretaker for, died of a respiratory illness that she suspects was COVID-19. 

Young is scrambling to apply for funding from the Clark County Housing Assistance Program. She estimates she owes about $20,000, but has been unable to get a rent ledger from her landlord, which is holding up the rent aid. 

If her application goes through, Young will have a little more time as Nevada is one of a handful of states, including Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York and Oregon, where renters who’ve applied for financial assistance are protected from eviction while their application is pending. But Young told CBS MoneyWatch she’s already received an eviction notice, and she fears she could be out in a matter of days. 

“I’m pretty freaked out right now,” she said. “I feel like I’m on the Titanic; I’m in the water, we’ve sunk, and we don’t have lifeboats here.”

Despite more than 450 different programs around the country to help renters in distress, just about one-tenth of the financial aid Congress has allocated in rental assistance has made its way to renters. Housing advocates have pointed to
the layers of paperwork and other bureaucratic delays in programs as a reason to extend eviction protections nationwide.