If you are a renter, especially one of the 36 million Americans who have lost their jobs since the beginning of March, you’re likely staying up at night worrying about what will happen if you haven’t, or soon can’t, pay your rent.
You’re not alone. The most frequent calls and emails we get at Court Buddy include:
- Can my landlord evict me if I don’t pay my rent if I’ve lost my job because of COVID-19?
- Can I pay just part of my rent?
- What happens if I break my lease and just leave?
- Can my landlord charge me late fees?
- Can my landlord lock me out?
- If I’m not paying, does my landlord have to fix things that are broken?
- How will breaking my lease or eviction affect my credit?
- Can my landlord use my security deposit to cover any rent I didn’t pay?
Below, we’ve provided a resource to answer all of these questions and more. Soon, we’ll be adding articles that answer these questions for specific states.
How the federal government is trying to help renters
The law says that renters can remain in their apartments or houses without facing the threat of immediate eviction.
Note the word immediate.
Before you think you’re in the clear, make sure you understand the finer points of this legislation:
- The CARES Act says landlords can’t file new eviction proceedings for nonpayment or partial payment of rent for 120 days beginning on March 27, 2020.
- That means that unless the federal government announces another aid package, your landlord can begin eviction proceedings as of Saturday, July 25, 2020.
- The landlord is entitled to collect all back rent from you during this moratorium.
- If you were already being evicted, your landlord can continue the process.
- Landlords can’t charge fees, penalties, or other charges for nonpayment of rent through July 25.
- After the moratorium period, the landlord can’t lock you out. The landlord must provide a tenant with a written 30 days’ notice. At that point, you may lose access to your rental.
How states and cities are trying to further help renters
Under the CARES Act, landlords across the country have the right to file eviction notices on July 25th, which could eventually lead to mass homelessness.
In an effort to prevent that, many states and cities have created their own laws to protect renters.
But these laws vary wildly by state and city.
Fortunately, Princeton University’s Eviction Lab and Columbia Law School Professor Emily Benfer have developed a policy scorecard for each state. The site is updated daily, and explains every new emergency order, declaration and legislation in easy-to-understand language.
Check your state’s score, and see an updated list of laws regarding residential renting, here.
Here’s an example of how eviction laws vary by state during the Coronavirus
In Massachusetts, there is a moratorium on all five stages of eviction (which start with landlords posting notices to tenants and ends with removal of the tenant) during the pandemic and for 45 days after the state of emergency is lifted by the governor of the state (not the President of the country).
The governor can also extend this moratorium in increments of 90 days.
That means renters in Massachusetts are among the most protected in the nation.
But in Texas, courts still are accepting eviction paperwork. Although no one can be evicted until the federal mandate expires, in late July, there may be a line of landlords waiting at court doors.
Don’t lose hope if you live in a state with a low score. Your landlord may still be willing to work with you to work out a repayment plan.
Check out our advice here and feel free to reach out to us for more help.
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