Renters struggling with housing costs because of the pandemic have been shielded from eviction for nearly a year, but now the national ban on such proceedings will expire on July 31.
Millions of families could be at risk at that point, as the billions of dollars in federal rental assistance authorized by Congress has been painfully slow in reaching people and around 16% of U.S. renters are still behind on their housing payments.
If you’re worried about being forced out of your home, you should take these steps as soon as possible, according to experts.
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Apply for rental assistance
More than $45 billion in rental assistance has been allocated by Congress in the last two major stimulus packages, and you could receive up to 18 months of help, including a mix of payments for back and future rent.
To be eligible for the funding, at least one member of your household has to qualify for unemployment benefits or attest in writing that they’ve lost income or incurred significant expenses due to the pandemic. You’ll also need to demonstrate a risk of homelessness, which may include a past-due rent or utility notice.
In addition, your income level for 2020 can’t exceed 80% of your area’s median income, though states have been directed to prioritize applicants who fall at 50% or lower, as well as those who’ve been out of work for 90 days or longer.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition has a state-by-state list of the 469 programs giving out the federal money.
Know your rights
Beyond applying for rental assistance as soon as possible, familiarize yourself with your rights. Those will vary by state.
Most states have lifted their eviction bans by now, but some are still in place. Those policies have nothing to do with the federal moratorium.
For example, New York has extended its eviction moratorium until September for tenants who’ve endured a Covid-related setback or for whom moving could pose a health risk. To qualify, renters must submit a hardship form to their landlord.
Just applying for rental assistance can help you stay in your home longer.
In Minnesota, lawmakers struck a deal prohibiting the eviction of any renters who are in the process of applying for the relief. That protection will last until June, 2022.
Tenants in Nevada also can’t be forced out of their homes if their rental assistance application is pending or if their landlord refuses to accept the aid.
Get a lawyer
If your landlord has moved to evict you, try to get a lawyer.
You can find low-cost or free legal help with an eviction in your state at Lawhelp.org.
In a growing number of cities and states, including Washington, Maryland and Connecticut, tenants facing eviction have a right to counsel. You can find a longer list of those places at civilrighttocounsel.org.
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