New York has passed sweeping law extending its eviction and foreclosure moratoriums through May 1 and strengthening credit protections for people struggling to pay their rent, mortgage, or property taxes during the coronavirus pandemic .
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Emergency Eviction and COVID-19 Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 into law on Monday night, explaining that “the more support we provide to tenants, mortgage borrowers and seniors, the easier it will be for them to get back on their feet when the pandemic is over.
Housing rights advocates have welcomed the move, but say more action is needed to protect tenants and landlords across the country.
Here’s what you need to know about the looming eviction crisis in the United States.
First of all, how many people are we talking about?
An estimated 30 to 40 million Americans are at risk of deportation, according to a analysis data from the US Census Bureau by the nonprofit Aspen Institute, making it possibly “the most serious housing crisis” in US history.
And while it didn’t start with the pandemic, “COVID-19 has shed light on the chronic housing and eviction crisis in the United States,” said Marty Wegbreit, director of litigation for the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society. , whose job it is to help tenants threatened with eviction.
More than 1.7 million Americans said it was “very likely” that they would have to leave their current homes within the next two months due to the eviction, according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse survey for the week ending December 7th. Over a million of these respondents are families with children.
Could evictions worsen the COVID-19 crisis?
Absolutely. If people are evicted from their homes and forced to stay with friends or family or in overcrowded temporary shelters, the potential for the spread of COVID-19 increases.
In fact, modeling by a research team at the University of Pennsylvania found that through the scenarios, “Evictions lead to significant increase in infections.”
It also has a real impact on deaths from the virus. A study by researchers at UCLA and Johns Hopkins University compared states with eviction moratoria in place between March and September to those that lifted them, finding that lifting the moratoria resulted in an estimated 433,700 additional cases of COVID-19 and around 10,700 additional deaths.
Yikes. So what does New York’s new law do?
It prevents landlords from evicting tenants who file COVID-19 hardship reports until May 1, and stops ongoing eviction proceedings for those who qualify.
The law also ends foreclosures until May 1, allowing landlords and owners of 10 or fewer homes to file hardship forms with their mortgage lenders.
Why is this important?
Small landlords who don’t take rent can’t pay their own bills, including property taxes that fund schools, roads, and other utilities. Giving them some relief is also important.
This is why Wegbreit says the New York law “offers a balanced approach to the eviction crisis. It not only blocks evictions of tenants facing financial difficulties, but also protects small landlords from foreclosure. “
And these property taxes?
New York law suspends tax lien sales and tax foreclosures until at least May 1, and prevents lenders from discriminating against homeowners who are behind on payments as long as they have filed a hardship form.
It also automatically extends tax exemptions for disabled homeowners and the elderly, who rely on them for housing.
It looks promising. And the rest of the country?
A national moratorium on evictions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is currently in place until January 31. It was due to expire on Thursday, but was extended as part of the latest stimulus bill.
Beyond the CDC’s moratorium, other states offer their own protections, but it’s a patchwork of laws that vary widely.
Virginia, for example, has offered more than $ 84 million in rent relief and “landlords seeking eviction due to unpaid rent must give tenants 14-day non-payment notices with information. on rent relief, ”Wegbreit said.
As of Jan. 1, Virginia landlords “must apply for rent relief on behalf of the tenant, unless the tenant has already applied,” he added.
So does the CDC’s moratorium mean no one can be kicked out just yet?
Nope. In the 27 cities monitoring by Princeton University’s eviction lab, homeowners have requested 162,563 evictions during the pandemic.
Tenants are only protected if they file a hardship declaration form, but any error of this form or refusal can still put them at risk of eviction.
Does the moratorium waive rent?
No. Tenants pay the rent refund upon expiration and the CDC’s national moratorium does not waive late fees or penalties – tenants will therefore be responsible for unpaid rent as well as fees charged by their landlords.
The New York Moratorium, however, waives late fees and allows tenants to use security deposits they paid at the start of their lease to offset rent.
But that return rent really adds up. In the borough of Manhattan in New York, for example, the median asking rent was $ 2,800 a month in November, according to real estate data from StreetEasy.
And while that’s a 10-year low for the expensive island, someone who hasn’t paid rent since the moratorium began will owe 10 months of past-due rent when it expires, or $ 28,000.
Sensational. Could someone pay for this?
That remains to be seen, especially as the economic conditions that have led people to fall behind on rent payments persist – such as high unemployment.
An estimated 10 million jobs lost at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March have not returned. Unemployment benefits can help people pay some or all of their rent now, but it’s probably not enough to help pay off rent as well.
Is help on the way?
Yes, but it may not be enough. Representatives room passed a measure increase stimulus checks to Americans from $ 600 to $ 2,000 at the behest of President Donald Trump. Now he’s going to the Senate for a vote.
The $ 900 billion COVID-19 relief bill, signed by Trump on Sunday, also adds a federal top-up of $ 300 to state unemployment benefits, providing a little more money for those without work.
But as you can see, a one-time payment of $ 2,000 is not going to dent that amount of rent for a Manhattan apartment.
Evictions can also become black mark on the credit history of tenants – which will make it more difficult to find affordable, quality housing in the future. That’s why housing advocates say much more than a moratorium is needed to keep people in their homes for the long term.