Is Your Housing Situation Affected by COVID-19? Here Are Some Options

The Coronavirus pandemic is officially recognized in every state as well as the federal government. On March 27, 2020, the most comprehensive public aid package in American history was signed into law by President Donald Trump. It includes provisions for fast income to those who are unemployed due to governments' reactions to the outbreak.

One of the more popular portions of the bill gives $1,200 to most working Americans, with a few caveats. However, there are questions as to how quickly this money will arrive. Many people are reporting an uptick in landlord-tenant disputes regarding rent payment. Many times, people who have reliably paid rent suddenly found themselves without jobs after executive orders were passed that forced them out. Unfortunately, most of these orders had no provisions to ensure people could live in the meantime.

Here are some ways to quell the issues you may be having with landlords.

Looking at State Laws

At this point, most states have realized that foreclosures and evictions due to non-payment of rent actually constitute a health hazard. It's best to stay at the most local level possible. Also, remember that most courts are not in session for non-emergency matters. This means that you should not give in to eviction demands, since most are effectively not enforceable at the moment.

In some states, such as New York and California, evictions and foreclosures have been explicitly banned by executive orders. In other states, like Texas, courts have declared that they are illegal at this time. Some states have placed a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures per passed legislation, as well. There's currently not a centralized database, so it's best to check online.

Even if your state has not passed such a measure, some cities and localities have the ability to pass these unilaterally due to the state of emergency all are in. The likelihood increases the larger the city or county is. This is because the last thing they want to need to spend funds on is dealing with frivolous disputes that have been caused, at least in part, by their own orders.

Turning to Federal Law on the Matter

If you are not covered by state or local law and cannot pay rent at the moment, you're not alone. Many unscrupulous landlords are not sympathetic to the situation and relentlessly attempting to extract rent from tenants. So, is there any way you're covered under federal law?

In short, it's complex. If you live in public housing, HUD has passed a temporary moratorium on evictions. Those living in Section 8 housing also have a pause in when rent is due. Keep in mind, though, that you will most likely need to pay your rent or mortgage at some point; it's simply being delayed.

If you're renting a traditional apartment or paying off a mortgage on a house, many corporations receiving loans under the Coronavirus relief bills are prohibited from evicting those who cannot pay. Unfortunately, since this rash of bills has been so recent, and some bills surpass one thousand pages, there is not a central database that can tell you off the bat if you are safe to wait to pay your mortgage or rent.

The Bottom Line

Of course, if your job wasn't impacted by COVID-19 or you can work from home, you should absolutely still pay your mortgage or rent. All relief efforts for this are aimed at those who lost their jobs and cannot work at the moment, especially as they still wait for stimulus checks to come in.

However, many private lenders already volunteered to pause mandatory payments for everyone. An interesting trend in contrast to 2008 is that most are not requiring so-called "means testing", or demanding to see documentation that you indeed have been affected and require immediate support. It's likely because their customer service agents are inundated as it is, and these companies don't want to deal with more angry customers.

In short, your first best options are local and state governments. Your second best option is trying to leverage federal laws or mortgage and rental company policies. Remember, these change daily, and most states require a long period of notice before eviction or foreclosure. It's likely that in the meantime, a law will be passed to temporarily ban these federally, if all states don't get to doing so first.

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