Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has killed the federal COVID-19 eviction moratorium (opens in new tab) for good, millions of people who are behind on rent could soon lose their homes (opens in new tab).
Only a few states have eviction moratoria of their own in place, and most of those expire by early October. So what can you do if you're months behind on your rent and facing eviction?
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The first step is to try to work out a deal with your landlord, if possible. Many smaller landlords may prefer a payment arrangement over the hassle of finding and approving new tenants.
You may have already tried that, however. The second step is to apply for your state's Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program, the result of nearly $47 billion allocated by Congress to local governments to help residents pay rent and utilities during the coronavirus crisis. (You can check whether you might qualify here (opens in new tab).)
Only about $5 billion of that money had actually been spent (opens in new tab) by the end of July, which means there's plenty left to go around. The U.S. Treasury has a page with links to all the different state, tribal and territorial agencies distributing rental-assistance funds (opens in new tab).
The application process can be tough to figure out, and you may have to upload some documents. Then you'll have to wait several weeks before your application is approved, and there's no guarantee that it will be.
However, you need to inform your landlord that you've filed an ERA application, because many state and local laws will protect you from eviction while the approval process continues.
How to get legal help or housing
If you've applied for the ERA program and been denied, then you may have to turn to legal help. Laws regulating the eviction process vary widely across states and municipalities, so you'll need a local lawyer.
The Legal Services Corporation (opens in new tab) (a government agency) can help you find a legal-services agency in your area. Princeton University's Eviction Lab has a detailed FAQ regarding eviction procedures and legal avenues (opens in new tab).
If you've already been evicted, or are about to be, then you need immediate housing. Just Shelter (opens in new tab) is an organization that helps you find housing services in your area. Catholic Charities (opens in new tab) does the same.
What about stimulus checks and local eviction bans?
Don't count on a fourth stimulus check to bail you out. Chances of a fourth stimulus check coming from the federal government are near zero, although a few states, most notably California, are still issuing checks of their own. Most parents of children under 18 will continue to receive child-tax-credit advance payments through Dec. 15, but the money ends after that.
New York state's own eviction moratorium ran out yesterday (Aug. 31), but the state's new governor, Kathy Hochul, has called the legislature back for a special session to try to extend the New York state moratorium (opens in new tab) until possibly mid-January. In Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker says he will extend the state moratorium until Oct. 3 (opens in new tab).
California and Washington state's holds on evictions last until Sept. 30, while Minnesota's partial hold goes only until Sept. 12. New Jersey lifted its eviction hold for middle-income tenants (opens in new tab) today (Sept. 1), but lower-income tenants are protected until Dec. 31.
New Mexico's ban on evictions has no fixed expiration date (opens in new tab). The state Supreme Court will decide when it ends. Here's a complete list of eviction moratoria across U.S. states (opens in new tab).