Report: Eviction notices soaring, despite CDC moratorium
Large landlords have filed nearly 10,000 eviction notices in just five states since early September, despite a CDC moratorium that runs through Dec. 31 on people actually losing their homes due to COVID-19-related hardship, according to a disturbing new report.
The report, published Monday by NBC News, quotes housing advocates who are worried that the number may just be the tip of the iceberg – and that many evictions could occur once the moratorium expires.
The report cites an Oct. 9 “clarification” issued by the Trump Administration that was sought by the National Apartment Association and other landlord advocacy groups. The clarification advises that landlords are allowed to proceed with eviction filings right now, as long as people do not actually lose their homes before Dec. 31 due to COVID-19-related financial difficulties. The clarification also says landlords are not required to notify tenants of the eviction moratorium or who it covers. CDC’s moratorium requires tenants seeking protection from eviction to sign a declaration that says their earnings are below certain limits, that their inability to pay rent is related to income loss or high out-of-pocket medical expenses, that they are making best efforts to pay rent, and would face homelessness or unsafe overcrowded conditions if evicted. Tenants must submit the declaration to the landlord, who then could not evict. Many tenants do not know about this declaration, and landlords are unlikely to tell them about it.
The NBC report states that nearly 10,000 filings were reported in 23 counties in five states – Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas — between early September, when the CDC moratorium was announced, and Oct. 17. Since the Oct. 9 clarification was issued, the number has grown – during the week of Oct. 12, for example, almost 2,000 proceedings were recorded in the five states, almost twice the number from the previous week.
One of those affected, NBC News reports, was Cristina Velez, who lost her job running the staffing team on a COVID-19 treatment trial. She owed $2,440 in rent on the Boca Raton, Florida home she shares with her daughter. She asked her landlord, Progress Residential, to give her more time to come up with the money.
“I told them I was affected by Covid, but it didn’t matter to them,” Velez said. “They are not very patient.”
Progress responded by filing eviction proceedings and demanded $4,210.14 in rent and legal fees.
Velez said Progress representatives never told her about the CDC moratorium; and according to the Oct. 9 clarification issued by the Administration, they are not required to. She eventually sold her car to pay Progress.
“I said, ‘There’s got to be something for people affected by Covid and being furloughed,” she said. “There’s nothing we can do,” the company representative replied, Velez said.
NBC News received its data from the Private Equity Stakeholder Project, a nonprofit group that examines the impact of private equity on communities. It began compiling eviction statistics after the pandemic’s onset, although it does not know how many evictions are related to COVID-19 hardship.
Many of the eviction filings are coming from prosperous companies such as Invitation Homes, which owns and leases 80,000 single-family homes nationwide. According to NBC News, the company is thriving – its earnings rose for the first six months of the year, and its stock price has jumped by 80 percent since the market bottomed out in March. Court records show Invitation Homes has filed 122 eviction notices in the five states since early September.
“The decisions of large companies to advance evictions despite the moratorium quite literally threatens the health of residents and the broader public,” said Jim Baker, Executive Director of the Private Equity Stakeholder Project. He said the five-state figures are likely to be only the tip of the iceberg. (Indeed, another group that monitors evictions, Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, tracked 20,523 eviction notices in the 22 cities it monitors between Sept. 4 and Oct. 17.)
When CDC announced the moratorium on evictions in early September, it said it was crucial to stopping the spread of COVID-19. It estimated that up to 40 million people could lose their homes without eviction protections.
“Evictions threaten to increase the spread of COVID-19 as they force people to move, often into close quarters in new shared housing settings with friends or family, or congregate settings such as homeless shelters,” the CDC order states. “In the context of a pandemic, eviction moratoria – like quarantine, isolation, and social distancing – can be an effective public health measure utilized to prevent the spread of communicable disease.”
The clarification from the CDC earlier this month narrowed what had been a broad ban on evictions, housing advocates say, and it gave landlords the upper hand. They warn that a wave of evictions could be coming, along with lasting financial damage to renters.
It “puts more power back in the hands of landlords at the expense of low-income renters,” said Diane Yentel, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “It creates new burdens for renters and creates new holes in protections for renters.”
The recent rise in eviction filings will push many renters to move out even if they qualify to remain in their homes under the CDC ban, housing advocates say.
“In many states around the country, you can’t cure an eviction once it is filed,” said Shamus Roller, executive director of the nonprofit National Housing Law Project. “People are going to get notices and are going to feel they’ve been evicted and will move out. The CDC order created an incentive for unethical behavior by landlords.
If the CDC moratorium expires without a replacement, a wave of evictions is likely, housing advocates say. “When you hit Jan. 1, people will owe tens of thousands in back rent,” said Chris Groninger, chief strategy officer for the Arizona Bar Foundation, a nonprofit that helps low-income people. “We are creating poverty as we speak.”
Indeed, recent surveys show that an extraordinary number of Americans already owe back rent. One such survey found that nearly one in six of adult renters in the U.S. said their household was not caught up in rent. This included 26 percent of Black, 20 Percent of Asian, and 19 percent of Latinx renters, compared to 11 percent of white renters.