USRESIST NEWS Legal Brief
The USRESIST NEWS legal briefs report on the roles that our legal system plays in relation to the processing and adjudication of public policy issues.
# 1 End of Eviction Moratoriums Strains Renters’ Legal Support System
By Zack Huffman
October 27, 2020
Covid-19 brought record unemployment over the summer, which left millions of families unable to afford rent.With a federal moratorium on evictions expiring in January along with numerous states ignoring the problem, an impending eviction wave could further cripple nonprofit and pro bono legal organizations, further diminishing access to legal counsel for the nation’s neediest.
Somewhere between 30 and 40 million renters are in danger of losing their homes because they can no longer cover the cost of rent, according to data from the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program.
Those in danger represent about a third of all renters in the country, with concentrations in the South and the Rust Belt.
Data from the Aspen Institute and the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project show, as of early August, at least 37% of renters in Alabama and Nevada were in danger of eviction. Louisiana, New York and Oklahoma show 36% of all renters in danger, which 14 other states had rates above 30%.
Several states issued their own eviction bans, such as New York, Massachusetts and California. California’s lasts until 2021, but other states that previously issued moratoriums have allowed them to expire.
The Trump administration initially announced a federal ban on evictions, which expired in July. The Centers for Disease Control then issued its own eviction ban, which lasts until January 2021, as a means to reduce the spread of COVID-19.In October, the CDC clarified that its ban solely applies to the removal of people from a home and that landlords were still able to bring tenants to court as a means to start the eviction process or to collect unpaid rent.Whatever happens this fall and winter, it is almost guaranteed that 2021 will bring an avalanche of housing court evictions when there is already a limited supply of support for nonprofit and pro bono legal help.
Regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic, tenants facing eviction need legal representation. Now with the economy reeling from the effects of COVID-19 shutdowns there is an even greater need for legal help on the horizon.Without adequate funding for nonprofit legal aid organizations and attorneys that provide pro bono help, there will be little that can help against the swelling eviction wave.
In the absence of federal action, cities and states can pass regulations that require full notification of tenants’ rights by the landlord before they can begin the eviction process. Few tenants are properly prepared to defend themselves from legal action. Most people lack a basic knowledge of housing law and are ill-equipped to defend themselves. At the same, few people who struggle to pay their rent have enough income to cover the cost of a lawyer. Aside from leaving people without a home, eviction can leave a black mark on their record, making it more difficult to obtain housing from skeptical landlords.
“Civil legal aid evens this unfair playing field and helps people protect their health, home, income, and family,” said the National Legal Aid & Defender Association in an open letter to all members of the U.S. Congress from June, seeking additional funding for the Legal Services Corporation. “This will be of particularly critical importance over the coming months as the legal consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to develop and become clearer.”
The National Legal Aid & Defender Association
The NLADA advocates and raises funds for legal aid, particularly for those who cannot afford it. http://www.nlada.org.
The COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project
The CED Project was founded in March 2020 to respond to urgent questions about housing, homelessness and community recovery during the spread of the coronavirus. https://cedproject.org
Learn More References
Buhayar, N. (2020, August 26). Why a Historic Eviction Wave Is Bearing Down on U.S.: QuickTake. Retrieved October 23, 2020, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-08-26/why-a-historic-eviction-wave-is-bearing-down-on-u-s-quicktake
The CDC and Health and Human Services’ FAQ on the Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions to Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19. Retrieved October 23, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/eviction-moratoria-order-faqs.pdf
Keating, D. And L. Tierney (2020, April 29). Which States Are Doing a Better Job Protecting Renters from Being Evicted During the Coronavirus Pandemic. Retrieved October 23, 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/04/29/which-states-are-doing-better-job-protecting-renters-being-evicted-during-coronavirus-pandemic/?arc404=true