“Absolutely nothing to do:” owners and tenants fight because the moratorium “of half-measure” does not please anyone


The federal moratorium on evictions, which allowed struggling tenants overwhelmed by the COVID-19 fallout to stay in their homes but left landlords mostly held for unpaid rents, is starting to attract more fire from both camps.

As the Delta variant leads to a resurgence of cases across the country, landlords and tenants are speaking out against loopholes in the moratorium, which has failed to address the fundamental problem of tenants unable to pay rent – or landlords who do not. not. paid and drown in rising costs.

Some 6.5 million renter households are behind on rent, according to data from the US Census Bureau, of which nearly 72% have to pay.

This demographic group is arguably one of the biggest losers in the current crisis, with the moratorium neither providing them financial relief nor making it easier to pay for it.

The policy “is so one-sided that at some point it will change,” complained Suzanne Antolini, a Long Island owner. She now has over $ 50,000 in debt due to the refusal of a salaried tenant to pay her rent.

“Our hands are so tied that there is absolutely nothing we can do,” Antolini told Yahoo Finance in an interview.

Trying to get money out the door with no luck

Chaunda Lee, a single mother of eight who has five children living with her, wears her face mask before going to court for her eviction case, presenting the judge with a CDC moratorium to stop the eviction, in Louisville, Kentucky, United States August 19, 2021. Lee was granted a stay of her eviction because the CDC’s extended moratorium was applied to her case, although the landlord told the court that she had not paid rent for six months after the two months free rent she had offered him. REUTERS / Amira Karaoud

Most evictions for unpaid rent have been halted since the early days of the pandemic, but 58% of small landlords with fewer than four units say they have tenants who are still behind on rent, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Homeowners of all income levels are frustrated with moratoria – which.

“One of the big challenges that we hear from our members is about non-responsive residents and how to fix that,” Paula Cinco, vice president of construction, development and policy, told Yahoo Finance. land use at the National Multifamily Housing Council.

“The reality is that rental aid is not self-executing,” she added.

Yet many headaches could have been avoided if the billions of dollars Washington has allocated to help troubled tenants pay their rent had actually reached them. Data from the Treasury Department shows that only a fraction of the nearly $ 50 billion in federal aid has actually benefited tenants and landlords, mired in overwhelming demand, and state and local infrastructure unable to handle the load.

“They’re trying to get the money out, but again, they had to build an infrastructure to move in this case, a hundred million dollars from scratch and comply with federal regulations,” Matt Hill, an attorney for the Public Justice Center, Yahoo Finance said in an interview, speaking about the Maryland Rental Assistance Program.

“It’s not easy. It’s going to take time and dedication. And we’ve just seen these programs start to really get live and be able to distribute money on a large scale.”

For months, tenants and housing advocates have sounded the alarm bells about the slow rollout of rent relief.

“We get dozens of emails and calls from tenants who have asked for money, who are desperate to receive the money, who are afraid of losing their home if they don’t get it on time, but who haven’t received that money yet, ”Diane Yentel, CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition told Yahoo! Finance live on Friday.

To this end, computer systems in several states malfunctioned, preventing tenants from applying. Some programs were understaffed and overwhelmed by the volume of requests. And insufficient awareness and strict documentation requirements have also been obstacles, according to advocates.

“There needs to be a lot more public education at the federal and local levels on the availability of these funds,” Yentel said, calling the moratorium a “half-measure” that did not meet the most urgent needs of tenants.

While the CDC’s new moratorium does little to address the problems of the old one, it raises the question of what is being done to help people in the long run. The infrastructure bill passing through Congress may include more than $ 300 billion in housing investment, which can target low-income renters.

Yet across the country, landlords and tenants continue to struggle with complicated enforcement rules and how to leverage available funds.

No one is listening to us. There’s nowhere to go to present our caseSuzanne Antolini, owner

The Biden administration has pressured states to work faster to withdraw the money. But the slow rollout continues to disrupt unpaid landlords and millions of tenants who are at risk of being evicted from their homes.

Homeowners like Antolini are grappling with thousands of dollars in lost rent, money his family may never be able to recover.

“We are not trying to put people on the streets,” she explained. She said a tenant who received paychecks throughout the pandemic didn’t bother to pay rent, or even ask for rent assistance.

“We have hit a wall completely and he has no plans to leave,” Antolini told Yahoo Finance. “We have tried many times to talk to him to find some sort of solution. And we are just faced with “you are harassing me”.

While tenants have been protected from eviction under the federal ban, the financial challenge facing many tenants is pressing working class landlords who depend on rent to pay their own bills.

A recent Urban Institute showed that 28% of homeowners postponed maintaining their properties, and 62% said it was for financial reasons.

Meanwhile, some homeowners have hired outside help like a lawyer to start the eviction process – but that’s also stalled. According to the, more than 65,000 eviction cases have been filed in the New York City Housing Court since the start of the pandemic.

Although the courts have allowed the filing of cases during the lockdown, most of them are on hiatus with no scheduled hearings until the end of the moratorium. An owner told Yahoo Finance that courts in New York are handing out dates for April and May 2022.

It is still too early to estimate the number of cases that will be on the roll when the court reopens. But more than 600 new housing cases were filed last week in New York City, according to Eviction Lab estimates, but cases in which landlords receive federal rent assistance will not go to court.

This leaves a growing number of homeowners in limbo.

“So the fact that there is no one to hear business, even though we can prove that this guy has worked and is just playing with the system and hiding behind the moratorium,” Antolini said.

“No one is listening to us. We have nowhere to go to present our case, ”she added.

Dani Romero is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @daniromerotv

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