As federal benefits inch closer to expiring, millions of Americans are still looking for work. Last week, another 1.3 million people filed for first-time unemployment insurance benefits. Without the option to postpone mortgage payments, renters may be particularly vulnerable.
While state and local governments have paused evictions, some orders may have already ended — and the CARES Act moratorium will expire on July 25. Without these orders, the COVID-19 Eviction Defence Project predicts that up to 23 million renting families could lose their homes by September 30.
If you’re struggling to pay rent and grappling with the possibility of eviction, you may have more options than you expect. But as the New York Times reports, the process of preventing eviction may take weeks, at a minimum — so the sooner you act, the better your chances are of staying in your home.
Communicate with your landlord
After a job layoff, your first instinct may be to dodge calls from your landlord. But it may be better to call them, explain your situation, and share how it may impact your next rent payment.
Try to negotiate
Once you talk to your landlord, see if they are open to making a deal. They may be willing to waive rent, reduce your rent, or accept your security deposit as payment.
Know the rules
Take time to understand your local, state, and federal renter protections. For example, your landlord can’t evict you while deferring their mortgage payments. A couple of other handy resources include the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s database of federal moratoriums and this spreadsheet of local actions.
Seek legal guidance
If a landlord brings an eviction action against you, you may not have an attorney provided to you. You can hire someone on your own, though, for less than you expect. Start by contacting your local Legal Aid office and connecting with a pro bono attorney. This may motivate your landlord to negotiate on your unpaid balance.
While you may be feeling hopeless, an eviction notice doesn’t mean you will have to leave your home. Depending on where you live, there may be several steps before this happens. After you receive a termination notice, your landlord may take you to court. If a judge rules against you, an officer will arrive to complete the eviction.