As of this Monday, Aug. 24, tenants in federally-subsidized housing are facing eviction, homelessness and increased vulnerability to COVID-19. More than just Section 8 public housing, the CARES Act moratorium on evictions that expired July 24 applied to many private rental companies and private landlords with federally-backed mortgage loans.
Landlords began serving tenants 30-day notices to vacate in late July. That 30-day period is now up, and the court system is preparing for a surge of appeals. This after an earlier flood of evictions filings and appeals when the statewide moratorium on evictions expired on June 20.
In New Hanover County, a backup magistrate arrived to help out the lone housing administrator. Even with the help, lawyers reported that tenants received just six minutes to defend their overdue rent and avoid eviction. Federal relief money is currently heading to community agencies to support households facing eviction and homelessness. For how long will the relief package band-aids hold together a stressed chain of debt?
Johanna Still explains to host Anita Rao what aid is available to tenants and how the housing crisis is expected to disrupt already-struggling local economies in North Carolina. Still is the interim assistant editor at the Port City Daily online news source in Wilmington.
Here are thing for tenants to keep in mind as the deadline approaches, according to Legal Aid North Carolina Staff Attorney Sarah D'Amato:
- You have six months to make arrangements for June’s rent: Under the Governor's Executive Order 142, landlords must allow tenants six months to make reasonable payment arrangements to pay off June's rent. Tenants are encouraged to be proactive about making payment plans with landlords.
- Pay what you can: The moratoriums do not relieve tenants of the duty to pay rent. Pay what you can, when you can, to avoid a large balance down the road.
- No late fees: Check your ledgers and bills to make sure you aren't charged a late fee for June. If you have been assessed a late fee, ask to have it removed.
- No padlocks: Landlords may not lock tenants out of their homes for any reason without first going through the court process.
- You can still be evicted for other reasons: The moratoriums do not prohibit a landlord from evicting a person for other issues not related to non-payment of rent.