U.S Tenants Struggle During COVID-19 Pandemic

By Jerry Gao, Editor

What Happened

From March to June, many states placed a moratorium on eviction, which stated that landlords could not evict their tenants for a period of time. Despite this, tenants across the United States were being evicted out of homes because they were unable to pay rent due to lost jobs caused by the pandemic. Evicted tenants were likely to be homeless, which would make them more susceptible to contracting the Coronavirus. In some instances, if the landlords were able to sell their houses, then they can still evict their tenants. 

 

Imagine if you woke up during the pandemic to find your landlord at the door, demanding you to leave because they had just sold the house. This is precisely the case for 66 year old Jill Ferguson, who has chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, making her very susceptible to the Coronavirus¹. In another example, a tenant named Longardino had lost two jobs. She received unemployment benefits of $450 every two weeks, but that is only enough to cover her car payment, insurance, and utilities at the apartment. As a result, she was not able to pay rent, and it caused her to face eviction and the possibility of homelessness despite the moratorium². 

 

In addition, even though the moratorium stated that courts would not be hearing eviction cases until late June for most states, landlords could still terminate the lease, which would grant them the rights to take tenants to court once the moratorium ends, resulting in evictions. 

According to the Washington Post, 44 percent of New York tenants had trouble paying rent in April, and 10 million people filed for unemployment in March.³ According to the New York Times, about 25% of the tenants did not pay rent from April to June.⁴

 

Currently

As of July, the mandatory moratorium in many states has now expired. Many tenants are now fearful of mass evictions. For other places like Washington, D.C, California, and Florida, the moratorium has been extended. On June 17th, 2020, the Federal Housing Finance Agency announced that they would extend the moratorium on foreclosures and evictions until at least August 31st, 2020 in Washington D.C, which was supposed to end on June 31st, 2020.⁵ According to ABC7, Governor Newsom of California extended the moratorium in his state through September of 2020. Los Angeles tenants will receive a total of $100,000 million in relief, which could compensate $2000 for 50,000 households.⁶ On June 30th, Governor DeSantis of Florida extended the moratorium on foreclosures and evictions until August 1st, 2020. The previous rules regarding the moratorium were also modified to fit the current situation.⁷

 

Possible Future Plans to Consider

There are many solutions to this problem, both short-term and long-term. Short-term solutions include petitioning for the local government to extend the moratorium until the opening of new job opportunities. This offers people like Longardino a chance to pay for her rent once her job starts again. Another solution to this problem is to raise awareness about tenant rights and advocate for temporary city tents. These are some passive approaches to the problem, but there is one active approach, which is by donating money to the local homeless shelters. 

The long-term solutions would require more legislative power. These solutions include petitioning for a social safety net for the tenants who have lost their job and are unable to pay rent. This solution proposal would prevent homelessness due to uncertain causes, like the Coronavirus, from happening again. Other long-term solutions include advocating for more funding of the Permanent Housing Projects. As of the current situation, the local government should prioritize the permanent housing of people who could prove that they have chronic diseases that make them more susceptible to Covid-19. These long-term solutions are essential because they would not only aid the current situation, but also help reduce homelessness in the future, but because of how fast the pandemic spreads, short-term solutions should be enacted upon first.

 

Citations

[1] Jessica Contrera, Tracy Jan. “Facing Eviction as Millions Shelter in Place.” The Washington Post, WP Company, March 22, 2020. www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2020/03/22/evictions-coronavirus-renters-shelter-in-place/.

[2] Chen, Michael. “Renter loses two jobs amid COVID-19 crisis, gets eviction warning”. ABC10 News San Diego, March 24, 2020. https://www.10news.com/news/local-news/renter-loses-two-jobs-to-coronavirus-impact-receives-letter-warning-of-possible-eviction

[3] Alieza Durana, Matthew Desmond. “A massive wave of evictions is coming. Temporary bans won’t help.” The Washington Post, WP Company, April 8, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/04/08/eviction-coronavirus-rent-homelessness/

[4] Matthew Hagg, Matt Stevens. “N.Y.C, Facing Pandemic Fallout, Freezes Rent for 2 Million Tenants for a Year.” The New York Times, June 17, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/17/nyregion/nyc-rent-guidelines-board-freeze.html

[5] Williams, Raffi. “FHFA Provides Tenant Protections.” Federal Housing Finance Agency, June 29, 2020. https://www.fhfa.gov/Media/PublicAffairs/Pages/FHFA-Provides-Tenant-Protections.aspx

[6] Gregory, John. “Coronavirus: Gov. Newsom extends state eviction moratorium through September” ABC7 News, July 1, 2020. https://abc7.com/governor-gavin-newsom-california-eviction-moratorium-renters-relief-program-coronavirus/6288032/

[7] Steven Lemongello, Caroline Glenn. “DeSantis Extends Moratorium Just Hours Before It Would Have Expired.” Orlando Sentinel News, June 30, 2020. https://www.orlandosentinel.com/coronavirus/jobs-economy/os-bz-coronavirus-desantis-rent-moratorium-extension-20200630-vu33f4rkofetldxao5f3hceriq-story.html