Evictions looming for Americans as moratoriums end, unemployment filings continue

Posted at 3:05 PM, Jul 13, 2020

With unemployment filings continuing to come in, many are unsure when or if they can pay the rent. Evictions are happening across the U.S. and experts predict it could get worse.

“Most states, at this point, I would say have some sort of statewide policy in place. Although again many of those are expiring,” said Lavar Edmonds, a Research Specialist at Eviction Lab.

Edmonds is talking about evictions. As state moratoriums end, the impacts on renters and landlords are unknown.

“I would imagine you're looking at millions of households that are at risk of facing eviction in the coming months,” he said.

The Eviction Lab has a team of researchers tracking the issue. Two years ago, they published a national database of evictions based on records. Now, they are looking at how states are handling COVID-19 and evictions.

“In some places that has meant a stopping of eviction hearings,” Edmonds said. He continued to note it could also mean some places are stopping filings, others late fees, and a bunch of different rules.

More than 40 million people have filed for unemployment since COVID-19 hit the U.S. according to the U.S. Labor Department. Studies show nearly 78% of renters were able to pay their April rent in the first week of the month, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council.

This could be due to additional weekly payments provided by the CARES Act to those who are unemployed.

“I now am on unemployment,” Desiree Kane said. “I’m concerned about that though, because the $600 a week pandemic support ends on July 31.”

Back in March, Kane, a freelancer, found herself in a situation many others also experienced.

“Over the course of 72 hours in the middle of March, I lost 100% of my clients and leads because of COVID,” she said. “I went from living by myself to living in an apartment where we’re splitting the rent multiple ways so that its affordable. But it’s a very small apartment and a lot of people.”

Kane helped create the Colorado rent strike group on Facebook, a group calling for change with evictions and homelessness in the state. While she continues to look for a job, she fears that July 31 end date.

“They’re calling it a cliff, and I very much feel that cliff,” Kane said.

It's a cliff that landlords are also concerned about.

“I have talked to a lot of landlords though that are worried their tenants aren't going to be able to pay their rent,” said Tom Orlando, owner of real estate firm Housing Helpers. “Business slowed down quite a bit.”

While each rental situation is different, for many property owners, no rent payment means no mortgage payment.

“I do see both sides. “I feel for the tenants who have lost their jobs,” Orlando said. “It’s also unfortunate for the landlord because they need to pay their mortgage. Most landlords do have a mortgage on their properties.”

The Eviction Lab is now examining what states are doing to help. They rate states using a scorecard system.

“Essentially a state by state look at what policies states are taking to combat evictions during the pandemic,” Edmonds said.

Moving forward, the potential for evictions is unknown and varies state to state.

“In 2016, we saw somewhere around 3.7 million filings, eviction filings,” Edmonds said. “I think it’s not so much a stretch to believe we’re gonna see something comparably, if not more severely, devastating for renter households.”