Chandra Dobbs was shocked when a constable arrived at her door with a large packet of eviction papers. She believed she had more time.
Dobbs stated a few days later that “I didn’t think I would be evicted” because she had applied for rental assistance money. “But they didn’t want to wait for the four- to six weeks. Now we are homeless: me, my 16 year-old son, my child, and my toddler grandchild.
In a time where the federal government has eliminated renter protections and given billions in rental assistance, her confusion is common across America. Many landlords are waiting for federal money, rather than the anticipated surge in evictions.
However, while some jurisdictions prohibit landlords from evicting tenants who have applied for the money to them, many do not.
According to court records, the judgment against Dobbs for eviction was $3,837. This included $2,700 rent, late fees, court and legal costs, and $2,700 in rent. Encore Management LLC filed for the eviction. They did not respond to a request to comment on their side.
Dobbs was fired as an exotic dancer in the pandemic. She said that her family will be staying with friends temporarily while she works with a non-profit to find a home and money for rent deposits.
Although it was slow to get started, the pace of distributing the initial $25 billion installment of $46.5 million in rental assistance is improving. Officials from the Treasury Department said that 420,000 households were served by the program in August, up from 340,000 in July. They also distributed $7.7 Billion since January.
According to Treasury officials, the strongest signs of progress were seen in New Jersey, New York, and South Carolina which initially struggled to get their programs running. New Jersey sent no money during the first quarter, but has now distributed 78% of its first installment money and served twice as many households in August than July.
Florida saw an increase in spending from $60.9 million in July, to $141.4million in August. South Carolina saw a decrease in spending from $10.6 million up to $25.3 million. New York saw an increase of $8.5 million to $307million.
“These numbers remain early, uncertain, and there is likely additional hardship not showing up in these reports,” stated Gene Sperling, who oversees implementation of Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue program. “But what’s out so far is certainly better that anyone’s best case scenario for any month after the moratorium.” Sperling said that the increase in eviction diversion programs was a key reason why the tidal waves didn’t materialize, and added that it was crucial to continue speeding up relief money to landlords. The Department of Housing and Urban Development published a new rule that prohibits landlords from evicting tenants living in HUD-subsidized housing. It also provides information about federal emergency rental assistance and 30 day notice.
Some tenants have been able to benefit from the remaining eviction moratoriums, including the one in California that ended last month, the one in New York which runs through the end the year, and the one in Boston which is ongoing.
Some have taken advantage new programs, ranging from Washington to Texas to Philadelphia and New Hampshire. These programs are designed to keep eviction cases out the courts and renters in their houses. A few court systems also have policies that prevent evictions of tenants who have applied for rental assistance. At least three states and 10 municipalities have approved measures to provide free legal counsel for tenants in eviction proceedings.
Diane Yentel is the president and CEO of the low-income coalition. She said that the nonprofit encouraged leaders of local and state governments to keep the few remaining local eviction bans after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moratorium in August.
Although landlord advocacy groups encourage members to not evict tenants who apply for government funds to cover their rent, owners sometimes don’t follow this advice. Many tenants are not paying rent, and smaller property owners have had to struggle for months to pay their taxes and mortgages.
Courtney Gilstrap LeVinus of the Arizona Multihousing Association stated that “the vast majority of property owners work with their residents for almost two years to keep them in their homes.”
She has represented landlords during the pandemic and noted that many were pushed to bankruptcy.
According to two studies of small-sized landlords, the Terner Center of Housing Innovation at University of California, Berkeley and the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, many property owners were willing to make concessions during the pandemic.
These findings also revealed the financial difficulties faced by landlords, with some choosing to sell their properties. This could result in a decrease in affordable housing stock within some communities.
Paul Wunder, a U.S. Marine veteran, was also on Constable Kristen Randall’s schedule for his Tucson apartment eviction. He said that all landlords should not wait to get federal money for rental assistance in order to get the rent money they owe.
Wunder said, while holding Missy, his small shaggy terrier-mix dog, in his apartment just a few days before being locked out. After being laid off during the pandemic, Wunder was then again laid off after he got a second job as an air conditioner technician.
He said that if they throw us in the street, they’ll get nothing.