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COVID rent relief is ending. Will July 25 bring a ‘tsunami of evictions’? – CNET

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Many coronavirus protections are going away at the end of July. We’ll tell you what you need to know about rent payments and evictions.

Angela Lang/CNET

Will there be an eviction moratorium after the federal CARES Act runs out on July 25? If you’re one of the nearly 12 million US adults living in a household that didn’t make rent this month, you might have to brace yourself for the “tsunami of evictions” that’s approaching as state and national rent protections are set to expire in the coming days. Federal eviction protection ends July 25 and the federally enhanced unemployment benefit that adds an extra $600 a week expires days later

The US Senate is now actively discussing a second stimulus check as part of a larger rescue bill, but right now there’s no legislation set to replace or extend these and other relief measures. Meanwhile, statewide eviction bans have mostly either already ended or will do so soon, many with no replacement in sight. Michigan, for example, let its eviction moratorium lapse, as have several other states. A handful of states never canceled evictions to begin with.

Where does this all leave you? Is August rent still due on the first or can you still get an extension? Can your landlord evict you if your payment is late? What laws (if any) can help you keep your home as you weather the coronavirus recession? Will there be another stimulus check and rescue package that might help?

Here’s where things stand now and what analysts are predicting might happen as the Senate negotiations get underway. Note that this story will update frequently as the situation develops. It’s intended to provide an overview, not to serve as financial advice.

A new eviction moratorium from the government?

Now that the Senate is back in session, leaders in Washington are discussing the details of the next bill, and if that will include any rent protections, eviction stays or a return of enhanced unemployment benefits, all which have been reported to help people “right at the edge.”

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Worried about making rent? You’re not alone. 

Josh Miller/CNET

There’s been backlash among some Republicans, whose focus is returning people to work rather than other measures, though the White House has reportedly hinted a willingness to extend some unemployment benefits, on a narrow basis. However, future eviction protections are still unknown.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has indicated that passing a second stimulus bill sometime between July 20 and the 31 will be a top priority. If Congress is to pass anything before the end of summer, it only has until Aug. 7 to work it all out. After that, both chambers recess again, this time for an entire month.

Negotiations are expected to devolve into what CNN called a “train wreck everyone sees coming, but isn’t totally sure how to stop,” as Republicans and Democrats remain divided on a number of key issues, including extending the federal unemployment enhancement, reopening schools and whether to grant immunity from lawsuits to businesses whose employees contract COVID-19 after being called back to work during the second deadliest pandemic in US history

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It’s still unclear how much cash Congress plans to put in American’s pockets with a second stimulus bill, only that another round of direct payments is likely to be included.

Angela Lang/CNET

How states are dealing with coronavirus evictions and rent

Early on in the pandemic, most state governments enacted some sort of eviction ban, but many of those have already expired, or will do soon. Some states have extended rent protections, as California did at the end of May. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a new bill banning evictions across the state for nonpayment of rent due to the coronavirus and Florida has extended its eviction moratorium as well. Several other states, such as Texas, have let such protections lapse, however, leaving renters to fend for themselves. 

To find out the status of eviction protection in your state, legal services site Nolo.com maintains an updated list of state eviction provisions. Ultimately, however, you may want to consult a lawyer to better understand how laws in your area apply to your situation, or locate the nearest Legal Aid office using this search tool. Legal Aid provides attorneys free of charge to qualified clients who need help with civil matters such as evictions.

What happens after eviction protections end?

The federal CARES Act passed in March provides the broadest and strongest protections to renters. It temporarily bans evictions and late fees until July 25. It also requires a 30-day notice to vacate before you can be evicted. If you live in a property covered by the CARES Act, the soonest your landlord can ask you to leave is July 25, and the soonest they can file an eviction to force you to leave is Aug. 24. Also, they can’t charge you late fees until after July 25. 

Whether or not those deadlines get extended, however, won’t be known until after the Senate decides on a bill.

This part is especially important. The protections spelled out in the CARES Act only apply to properties that receive federal funds and/or are financed under a federal program like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. This is where things get tricky: If your landlord owns your building outright or financed the property without going through a handful of federal programs that guarantee most mortgages and doesn’t get any government assistance like Section 8 money, the CARES Act won’t apply to your situation.

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Demonstrators protest evictions in San Francisco.

James Martin/CNET

For tenants of single-family homes or apartments in buildings with four or fewer units, it’s going to be tough to find out whether this law applies to you. But if you live in a multifamily property with five or more units, there’s a tool published by the National Low Income Housing Association that’s designed to tell you if the property where you live is covered under the CARES Act. Just enter your ZIP code and scroll through the list of properties looking for yours. (Searching within the page didn’t work for us, so scrolling it is.)

There’s one more wrinkle, however. Just because your building isn’t listed doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not covered — the tool only tracks properties with five or more units, and it might not even cover all of those. So if you rent a single-family house or an apartment in a building with four or fewer units, it may not be listed even if the property falls under the CARES Act. 

Online tools that can help you find resources

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donotpay

DoNotPay offers a variety of legal services, including financial relief due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Screenshot by Dale Smith/CNET

Nonprofit website 211.org connects those in need of help with essential community services in their area. It’s also recently set up a portal for pandemic assistance. If you’re having trouble with your food budget or paying your housing bills, you can use 211.org’s online search tool or dial 211 on your phone to talk to someone who can try to help. 

Another nonprofit, JustShelter.org, puts tenants facing eviction in touch with local organizations that can help them remain in their homes or, in worst-case scenarios, find emergency housing.

The online legal services chatbot at DoNotPay.com recently added a coronavirus financial relief tool that the company says will identify which of the laws, ordinances and measures covering rent and evictions apply to you, based on your location. 

DoNotPay is a service that will draft and send a letter to your landlord on your behalf, asking for either deferred payments or to waive late fees. Here’s how to set up an account and use the DoNotPay chatbot.

Ask your landlord for a reduction or extension

In almost all instances it’s probably best to work out an arrangement with your landlord or leasing agency, if at all possible. Although some landlords have reacted to the pandemic by reportedly putting even more pressure on tenants to pay upothers have risen to the occasion, some going so far as to stop collecting rent payments for the next few months.

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If you don’t have enough money to cover rent, first see what protections are available in your area, then consider trying to work out a payment arrangement with your landlord.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It may be worth approaching your landlord to see if they can reduce your rent in the coming months, or let you spread payments for the next couple of months’ rent out over the next year. As renters across the country organize rent strikes and more community leaders push for rent freezes, your landlord may prefer such an arrangement over not receiving any rent at all.

Just be wary of landlords who make excessive demands. For example, some have asked tenants to turn over their $1,200 stimulus check or any money received from charity as a condition for not filing an eviction order. Don’t agree to unreasonable conditions or terms you won’t be able to meet, especially if your city or state has enacted protections against such arrangements.

If you’re concerned about your financial situation these days, consider these 28 ways to save money during the pandemic and get some free financial advice from these six organizations. Here are some money basics that might be able to help you through a tough time.