360K Alabamians face eviction as CARES Act moratorium nears deadline

360K Alabamians face eviction as CARES Act moratorium nears deadline
Thousands of Alabama renters are facing the possibility of eviction as the CARES Act moratorium nears its end. (Source: WBRC)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The CARES Act Moratorium, designed to provide relief for renters during the pandemic, ended July 24. Now, tenants have 30 days from when their notice was given to pay their rent or face eviction.

“You’ve got parents who are dealing with the hurdles of having to educate their children from home and all that comes with that on top of the fact that now they are being evicted from their home,” said Laurie Mcfalls, Staff Attorney at Legal Services Alabama.

Meanwhile, protections for renters in the CARES Act have run out. The extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits, provided by the federal government on top of whatever assistance states provide, expired July 3.

Mcfalls said some renters never got their unemployment checks.

“A lot of these people that are renting across the state have applied for unemployment benefits through the CARES Act,” Mcfalls said. “Well, the department of labor is incredibly behind so they’re not getting that money in a timely manner. So you’ve got a lot of people across the state who are just praying that that money comes in before their 30 days runs out.”

Mcfalls said even if they get the money, it might be too late.

“Once it comes in, you may be getting thousands of dollars, which is great, unless you’re homeless by then,” Mcfalls said. “At which point you’ll have an eviction on your record which will make it more difficult for you to find a place to live.”

Alabama Arise, a non-profit organization working to promote policies for the poor, estimates that 361,600 people in Alabama might be at risk of eviction.

Dev Wakeley, a policy analyst with Alabama Arise, said the total number of people at risk of losing their home totals eight percent of the state’s population.

“One of the biggest mistakes made over the last few months was Congress’ decision to terminate the $600 employment federal subsidy,” Wakeley said.

The federal moratorium was in effect from March 27 through July 24, but Mcfalls said it’s important for tenants to know that they are still responsible for the rent that wasn’t payed during that 120 day period.

“If a landlord is now giving you a 30 day notice, it should be only for the rent during those months,” said Mcfall. “It should not include any late fees. They can start charging late fees again after that point.”

Congress has still yet to come up with a final agreement on a second round of stimulus checks lps://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/27/republicans-propose-second-round-of-1200-stimulus-checks.htmleaving millions of Americans unsure if they will be able to pay their rent on August 24 when the 30 days is up.

“Nobody knows if there is going to be an extension of eviction moratoriums or if we just got what we got,” Mcfalls said. “There is a lot of uncertainty and there is a lot of fear and that’s adding to people that are already stressed out.”

Mcfalls explains more about the CARES Act Moratorium

This applies only to certain landlords (rule of thumb is landlords who receive federal funding – through a federally backed mortgage or through subsidies). This moratorium prevented landlords from filing new evictions. Tenants who receive a 30 day notice at this point will still have the right to cure the default by paying all rent owed. They are still responsible for all rent during the moratorium.

If a tenant pays within the 30 days, the eviction is over and everything goes back to normal as far as rent payments and late fees.

If a tenant does not pay in full within the 30 days, the landlord does NOT have to accept the rent and may start the eviction process. Landlords may not charge late fees between March 27 and July 24 and cannot add them retroactively for that time period.

Once the 30 day period is up, if a tenant is served with an unlawful detainer (court papers), they only have seven days to file an answer with the court. Mcfalls said it is extremely important you respond in that time frame or you will not have the opportunity to fight it in court.

If a tenant is waiting for money from the Department of Labor and then gets evicted before receiving it, they will have a large lump sum of money, but it could become more difficult for landlords to collect payment. Mcfalls says it could be beneficial to the landlord to hold off on the eviction, when possible.

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