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North Texas Housing Experts Say CDC Eviction Moratorium Not Without Flaws

The Trump administration just bought tenants more time to pay rent.EXPAND
The Trump administration just bought tenants more time to pay rent.

Tuesday, the Trump administration announced it would be halting evictions through Dec. 31. Enacted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the order was introduced to prevent mass homelessness, which officials feared would contribute to a nationwide surge in coronavirus cases.

Renters are relieved, but some tenants’ advocates believe the latest moratorium is just delaying the pain since back rent will still come due eventually. The order aids those who lost work because of the pandemic, but if they can’t afford rent now, they probably won’t be able to later.

“It’s a huge relief to see this CDC order because I know it will prevent some homelessness from occurring over the coming months,” said Sandy Rollins, executive director of the Texas Tenants’ Union. “But it certainly doesn’t solve everything.”

The order comes as the CDC faces criticism for reversing certain coronavirus guidelines to public health officials’ dismay. Some have even speculated that the move was made to curry favor for President Donald Trump ahead of Election Day.

The moratorium buys tenants more time to get their rent together, but it does not forgive their debt. They will have to pay that in full, plus any late fees, after the mandate expires.

It covers people who make less than $99,000 a year, or double that for those who file jointly. In addition, renters must present their landlords with a signed declaration stating that they have no other available housing options.

Earlier this year, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act implemented an eviction moratorium for tenants living in properties with federally backed mortgages. Those protections ended in late July, though, and landlords could again file evictions on Aug. 25.

The new eviction moratorium covers more people, Rollins said, but it’s also unclear whether currently scheduled eviction hearings will remain on the books. Plus, it does not exempt tenants who were evicted after CARES Act protections expired, she said.

“I absolutely know people that have had to go to court, and some have moved in with family, and some maybe have found another place to live,” Rollins said. “So there have definitely been people who have already fallen through the cracks.”

Although the order aids the country’s renters, it does nothing to help landlords. As such, Denton native Jamie Taylor, who is a property manager in Austin, said that the moratorium is only halfway good.

Taylor said the moratorium could end up hurting landlords and those employed by property management companies. When he has a $30,000 delinquency on his leger because of unpaid rents, that’s money not going to the company that employs him, Taylor said.

While Taylor believes tenants shouldn’t be evicted because of circumstances outside their control, he fears some may take advantage. He said he knows landlords who are going broke at the same time their tenants are “living their best life."

“Do you have a heart for people? Of course. You don’t want to see anybody thrown out,” Taylor said.

“But there needs to be some type of balance, whether it is giving some type of assistance to the landlords, working with their mortgage companies … or tightening down on the stipulations of receiving your unemployment,” he continued. “This is supposed to go to your bill, not vacation.”

Dallas real estate agent Adam Pickrell said he was happy to learn of the CDC’s order since it could protect people from losing their homes. He said he empathizes with the region’s tenants; he was a renter during the 2008 financial crisis, and there were times when he couldn’t afford to pay his electric bill.

The idea that families would have to live without shelter amid a global pandemic is terrifying, Pickrell said. He added that Dallas, which has the largest homeless population in Texas, according to KERA, can’t afford a worsened housing crisis.

Still, Pickrell said the order doesn’t do enough to aid the country’s landlords, many of whom are themselves struggling to pay their bills. Once a landlord’s home is foreclosed on, he said, their renters wind up becoming displaced, too.

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“If there’s government assistance for the landlord, then that doesn’t become an issue,” Pickrell said. “If the government could come in and help subsidize while these people are not able to pay their rent, then when it comes time to pay their rent, they’re able to.”

Meanwhile, landlords can continue to charge late fees, which Rollins said can be excessive.

The government needs to do all it can to prevent a wave of evictions, she said, which can ruin a person’s credit and hinder their ability to rent or buy a house.

“We don’t want to see a lot of people with evictions on their records come January,” Rollins said. “And it’s just tragic for the people that are falling through the cracks.”

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