Evictions Moratorium Presents New Challenges
The negative impact of COVID-19 on a variety of industries has impacted people’s jobs and income across the U.S. The widespread reduction in income has made it extremely challenging for tens of millions of Americans to pay their rent. The president’s recent executive order – referred to as an “Eviction Moratorium” – is designed to protect tenants from eviction who have been negatively impacted by COVID. Without this protection, it is estimated that as many as 20-28 million renters would be at risk for eviction by the end of September.
The moratorium allows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to use their authority under the Public Health Service Act to prevent eviction, which might otherwise cause sudden homelessness and contribute to the spread of COVID-19.
Unfortunately, even with an eviction moratorium order there are many challenges that remain. One misconception is that renters won’t need to pay any past due rent. In reality, any unpaid rent continues to be owed and can even incur late fees, penalties and interest. This can quickly grow out of control, creating a snowball of unpaid rent that is immediately due when the moratorium ends in December. In the likely case they are unable to pay all of the overdue rent in full, they will be subject to eviction. An eviction can tarnish their tenancy record in ways that discourage other landlords from renting to them in the future and it doesn’t end there. Even after eviction landlords are able to pursue unpaid rent and late fees through the court system.
In the Spring of 2020, GroundWork group led focus groups with dozens of nonprofits and foundations to explore technology innovate around this problem. The result is a new platform called NeighborRelief, which is free to nonprofits and allows donors to contribute directly to the needs of their neighbors, such as help with rent or a utility bill. NeighborRelief transfers donations immediately to landlords, utility providers and others to provide fast and secure relief. We are currently piloting this innovative solution with ten nonprofits to understand how much time they save, how many new donations they receive, and how many neighbors we can help. For more information, visit neighborrelief.org.