In our last blog, we looked back at last year’s eviction moratorium, its recent extension, and what it has meant for both renters and landlords. Initially put in place under the Trump Administration, President Biden extended the eviction moratorium until March 311 as part of a larger plan referred to as the “American Rescue Plan.” Though the extension only delays the mounting hardships that renters will inevitably face, it has been argued that lengthening the ban is way to bide time for the legislature to come up with a long-term solution to the looming eviction crisis.2 The plan is set to allocate $25 billion in rental and utility assistance for rental relief to low- and moderate-income households “who have lost their jobs or are out of the labor market,” with funds that can go to 12 months of eligible renters’ expenses. Another $5 billion will go toward paying overdue utility bills through programs like the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, with an additional $5 billion being distributed via states and cities to help people obtain housing.3

These are lofty goals though, and there is a growing concern that these additional funds won’t see distribution until late-March, with some not likely to receive them until much later.4 On top that, there has been mounting pushback against the eviction moratorium: some have found loopholes within the executive order that have not been addressed by the Biden administration,5 while a federal judge recently ruled that the CDC overstepped its authority with the eviction ban.6 All of this has placed additional pressures on both renters and landlords that could have been avoided with more upfront support.

Federal Administrative Inefficiency

The most consistent complaint that the various federal protections (both those extended and expired) is that they have been confusing and difficult to navigate.7 Many critics, namely former White House advisor Julián Castro and his Housing Playbook Project, are calling on the Biden administration to pass comprehensive housing reform separate of the flawed eviction moratorium.8 Castro, who was secretary of Housing and Urban Development under the Obama administration, has stated that “the patchwork of eviction moratoriums at all levels of government exposes renters to the gaps in the system,9 with not enough having been done to address the various “structural problems” that have made interpretation of the moratorium a challenge:10 There are a number of loopholes and vaguely worded sections in the moratorium that have forced state officials and judges to interpret its confusing and ambiguous language.11

The result is that in many cases, evictions have carried on despite the moratorium remaining in place. Many courthouses are still moving forward with eviction proceedings, while no federal agency is enforcing the order’s penalties for unlawful evictions. Furthermore, as of late November 2020, they estimated that, nationally, the lack of strong and ongoing eviction moratoriums caused over 430,000 excess cases of COVID-19 and 10,700 excess deaths.12 But despite the vocal protests of the “Housing equals health” movement, evictions continue on.

This has encouraged some to suggest better reforms, from financial assistance and counseling to emergency housing and relocation.13 Despite these calls for amendments or additions to the federal eviction moratorium, the CDC has, as of February 11th, declined invitation to make changes to the eviction ban because of pending lawsuits over the order.14 This has left housing advocates worried that the $25 billion in rent relief addressed in the second stimulus package still won’t arrive quickly enough to alleviate the growing post-due balance.15

A Problematic Policy and the Need for a Better Approach

Though specific opinions on the eviction moratorium have been divided, one element has remained constant: everyone sees that there is room for improvement. Whether this would best be accomplished through better enforcement of the existing restrictions, the addition of new elements to order, or by replacing it entirely with some more effective, everyone seems to agree that change is necessary.16

In our next blog in the series, we’ll look at how both renters and landlords have been negatively impacted by the government’s handling of the eviction moratorium, along with how the two can work together to get the possible outcome for  both parties. Until then, if you’re in need of further legal assistance and expertise, contact CCSK Law at (219)-230-3600 or via email at support@ccsklaw.com.

Endnotes

1.  Rowan, L. (2021, February 3). CDC Extends Renters’ Eviction Moratorium Through March – Is More Rent Relief Next? Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/advisor/personal-finance/eviction-moratorium-extended-to-end-of-march/.

2.  Smith, D. (2021, January 21). Biden extends eviction moratorium until March 31: What renters should know. CNET. https://www.cnet.com/personal-finance/biden-eviction-moratorium-what-renters-should-know-if-ban-extends-to-sept-30/.

3.  Rowan, L. (2021, February 3).

4.  Rowan, L. (2021, February 3).

5.  Ruiz-Goiriena, R. (2021, February 2). Millions of Americans could lose their Homes despite President Biden’s Eviction Moratorium order. USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/02/02/bidens-federal-eviction-moratorium-may-not-protect-all-renters/4300051001/.

6.  Nova, A. (2021, March 11). Federal judge in Ohio rules CDC exceeded authority with eviction ban. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/11/federal-judge-in-ohio-rules-cdc-exceeded-authority-with-eviction-ban.html.

7.  Smith, D.

8.  Ruiz-Goiriena, R.

9.  Ruiz-Goiriena, R.

10.  Miranda, L., &; McCausland, P. (2021, January 29). Biden’s plan to halt evictions does not address ‘structural problems,’ housing advocates say. NBC. https://www.nbcnews.com/business/business-news/biden-s-plan-halt-evictions-does-not-address-structural-problems-n1255590.

11.  Miranda, L., &; McCausland, P.

12.  The Petrie-Flom Center. (2021, January 21). Why Biden’s Extension of the Eviction Moratorium Isn’t Enough. Bill of Health. https://blog.petrieflom.law.harvard.edu/2021/01/21/why-bidens-extension-of-the-eviction-moratorium-isnt-enough/.

13.  Ruiz-Goiriena, R.

14.  Capps, K., Dottle, R., &; McCartney, A. (2021, February 11). Why Can’t the Government Stop Evictions? Bloomberg. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-11/renters-are-falling-through-eviction-ban-loopholes.

15.  Rowan, L.

16.  Capps et al.

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