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How Eviction Moratoriums Help Prevent The Spread Of COVID-19

Patty Lamberti
Patty Lamberti Program Director
Patty Lamberti is the Program Director of Multimedia Journalism at Loyola University Chicago. She frequently writes about finances, the law and health.
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    Rebecca Varney from Pixabay
moratoriums stop covid
- additional reporting by Monzerrath Ortiz

Eviction moratoriums mean landlords can't evict tenants who aren't paying rent due to COVID-19 related issues. 

The federal moratorium on evictions ended last week. Some states and cities have their own moratoriums, which you can see here.

There's talk that the next Coronavirus relief package, currently being drawn up and debated in Congress, will include another federal moratorium on evictions.

We hope so, because moratoriums do more than keep people in their rental units. Moratoriums help stop the spread of the Coronavirus. 

Eviction numbers

The federal moratorium protected tenants in about 70% of rental units across the country. State moratoriums, many of which have ended, helped tenants in another 30% of rentals. 

But some renters didn't fall into either category of protection for a variety of reasons, such as:
  • their landlords didn't have a federally-backed mortgage, so the federal moratorium didn't cover their dwelling. 
  • they were being evicted before the federal and state moratoriums started in March.
  • they were being evicted for reasons unrelated to the Coronavirus.
Urban Footprint recently concluded that starting this week, nearly 7 million Americans may be evicted if the federal government does not intervene. 

The MacArthur Foundation found that women, and people of color, will be disproportionately affected. 
At the risk of stating the obvious, people who are evicted still have to live somewhere. 

They may find another rental (but that's difficult when you've been evicted and are low on money).  So they'll likely be forced to live with extended family or friends. Others may turn to homeless shelters. Across the country, homeless shelters are running out of beds, meaning some people are forced to live on the streets.

"Lucky" people may have enough money to live in hotels, at least for awhile. In June, researchers found that up to 20% of New York City hotels were being occupied by people facing housing challenges. 

The connection between evictions and the Coronavirus

This is the problem with putting more people into others' homes, hotels, shelters or on the streets: The more people you have in one place, the more likely it is that one of them will contract the Coronavirus, and spread it to the others living with them. 

Nasia Safdar, an infectious disease expert at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, said, “A key tenet of prevention in a pandemic is to have the infrastructure that will minimize transmission from person to person.” 

A recent study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland found that evicted tenants were “at greater risk of contracting, spreading, and suffering complications from COVID-19.” 

This isn't just about where people sleep at night. It's also about where they go during the day. 

Consider the simple act of washing clothes. When people are evicted, they often lose access to a building or unit's washing machine and dryer. Hence, they'll be forced to use laundry mats, breathing the same air as strangers, any one of whom could be infected with COVID-19. 

So if you want to pitch in to stop evictions, and therefore stop the spread of the Coronavirus, do these things:
  • If are renting and being threatened with eviction, don't cave in and move out. Fight your landlord. Even if you haven't been paying rent, a judge may rule in your favor for other reasons. A lawyer can help. One study found that when tenants represent themselves in court, they are evicted almost 50 percent of the cases. With a lawyer, they win 90 percent of the time.
  • If you are a landlord, try to work out a payment plan with your tenant before filing eviction paperwork. 
  • Write your local elected officials - whether you are a renter or homeowner - to urge them to implement city and statewide eviction moratoriums. Even if the feds make a moratorium part of the new relief bill, it won't last for very long. Some cities, like Boston, have implemented an eviction moratorium through the year's end.
  • If you have the means, contribute what you can to rent relief organizations. The National Low Income Housing Coalition accepts donations, and can direct you to local groups. 

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