A massive eviction crisis is looming as moratoriums on evictions imposed by states at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis are expiring as is the federal moratorium on foreclosures and evictions on properties financed by federal loans.
Add to that the expiration of extended unemployment benefits and renters will experience a double-whammy that could force beleaguered landlords to act.
There are between 22 million and 30 million Americans who face the prospect of losing their place of residence in the next 90 days. If nothing is done, some analysts expect homelessness to increase by up to 45 percent.
Many of those facing eviction will move in with relatives or friends. But millions of families who rent will end up either on the streets or at the mercy of the states, who will almost certainly be overwhelmed by the number of people needing help.
What can be done? It’s not just a question of people being evicted. Also at risk are most landlords, who need that rent money to pay employees, the mortgage, and contract services like cleaning and pest control. Moratoriums are fine for rents, but what happens to the building owners?
The prospect of millions of rental units across the country being empty should spur Congress to address the issue.
The president says he supports efforts by Congress to deal with the problem.
President Trump on Wednesday called on Congress to quickly extend a lapsed moratorium on evictions and approve more coronavirus stimulus checks.
“You gotta work on the evictions, so people don’t get evicted. You work on the payments to the people. The rest of it, we’re so far apart we don’t care. We really don’t care,” Trump told reporters on the White House South Lawn.
Renters are dubious they can make August rent.
The situation was dire even before both protections lapsed: Roughly 9.4 million renters have no confidence they will be able to make next month’s rent payment, according to the latest weekly survey by the Census Bureau, conducted the second week of July. Another 14.3 million have only “slight” confidence they will be able to make rent next month.
Democrats in the House passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package that included $100 billion in rent assistance, but the GOP Senate has yet to grapple with the problem as state moratoriums begin to expire.
It’s already too late for many renters in California.
Beyond initial threats, some landlords have found more direct ways to try to force out tenants. Some have physically prevented tenants from entering, according to the LA Tenants Union, which has organized “eviction blockades” to defend tenants immediately threatened with losing their homes.
Housing lawyers said they have also seen an increase in landlords resorting to filing “restraining orders” against their tenants, using a process typically reserved for stalking and harassment cases. Other property owners have delivered paperwork to tenants that appear to be formal eviction lawsuits, when in reality the documents lack legitimate court summons. In at least one county, the sheriff’s department has directly carried out evictions and the local courts have allowed them, despite statewide orders.
Landlords get a bum rap in the media but most are small businessmen owning a couple of properties. When renters don’t pay their rent, these people suffer too. They aren’t heartless, they’re desperate.
Clearly some kind of direct payment program is necessary. And it isn’t going to be cheap. But the United States cannot function without a robust rental housing industry, which could be decimated if the crisis continues.