As a result of COVID-19, states and counties have enacted a number of laws to help homeowners and renters deal with unemployment. These laws include eviction moratoriums that prevent courts from evicting tenants, rent payment moratoriums that suspend required rent payments that permit tenants to not pay rent and provide a schedule for paying back rent, and rent deferral policies that allow tenants to pay rent with their security deposit.
But these laws are temporary and they do not cancel rent nor prohibit evictions. In other words, many states and localities have only temporarily paused eviction proceedings, while tenants have continued to remain unemployed and unable to pay rent.
This guide will help you understand how to determine what laws apply to you and what options you may have to protect yourself from an eviction. Follow the chart below to understand the decisions that you need to make:
How can I learn about which eviction bans and protections apply to me?
States, counties, and cities are passing eviction bans and protections. To determine which laws apply to you, you should search for eviction bans and protections for the state, county, and city you live in.
To learn about the protections in place in your state, please see:
To learn about local laws, you can search for “[county name] eviction moratorium” and “[city name] eviction moratorium” and you can reach out to local government agencies or representatives. You can also visit https://covid19.antievictionmap.com/, but note that it may not be updated with the most recent information.
What do I do once my state’s eviction ban is ended?
Your options highly depend on whether or not you have been paying your rent, in full, partially, or not at all. Please refer back to the decision tree above.
If your state lifted its eviction protections or if it will be soon, it is important to start planning around how to pay for any missed rent. Even if your state still has the protections in effect, it’s helpful to pay as much as you’re able to and minimize as much what you owe as possible. This would help your case in the future should your landlord want to start eviction proceedings.
How can I find assistance to help pay for rent?
- Communicating your difficulties paying rent to your landlord. In doing so, you can negotiate a partial payment plan with your landlord (which should be in writing, whether it’s via email, text, or other medium that allows you to have a paper trail).
- Finding legal aid near you. In doing so, you should ask if the legal aid organization can:
- Represent you in court or even in negotiations with your landlord,
- Help you advocate for yourself (in lawyer-speak, “pro se”) with your landlord, and
- Provide you with rental subsidies or refer you to rental assistance programs that can help you cover your back pay.
Can I vacate my home without paying my rent?
Even if you leave, you may owe your landlord past-due rent. If you leave your home without paying the rent or have not negotiated (in writing!) a repayment agreement with your landlord, you could face a few consequences:
- It can make securing housing in the future more difficult.
- Most landlords ask if you’ve been evicted in the past. If you have been evicted, many landlords may require you to pay a higher security deposit.
- In some states, courts can impose a lien on your assets for past due rent and sometimes for legal fees. A lien means that the court can use other things you have (like a car or a savings account) as collateral against you; if you don’t pay, the court can seize your things.
- This could negatively affect your credit score.
You should try to avoid formal eviction if at all possible. To avoid getting evicted, it is critical that you find legal aid assistance or legal representation as soon as possible (within hours of receiving a notice). Eviction law is very fast-paced and very friendly to landlords, and it can be very difficult to navigate the legal system and represent yourself.
You should try to avoid evictions because of the obvious impact: you will lose your current housing. But evictions also have future consequences. Evictions make renting in the future difficult, because landlords are often unwilling to rent to tenants who have been evicted.
If you have received an eviction notice, you should try to pay the amount owed within the timeframe provided in the notice. If you can’t pay the rent you owe, you should immediately reach out to a legal aid organization to get support and to ask if they can represent you in housing court.
Who can I turn to for assistance if I’ve been served a notice of eviction?
While it’s best to try to avoid entering eviction court proceedings, in the event it does happen, there are resources and supports to help you retain your housing and/or receive legal counsel about these matters.
- Eviction Lab is tracking each state’s policies and practices around proceeding with evictions both in process and in the courtroom. Access the list here to find your state and review its current policies and practices.
Where can I find housing resources if I have to vacate my home?