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The Eviction Process COVID-19 Edition: What To Know

 

The US is currently under a national eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This protects anyone who has lost income due to the pandemic and has fallen behind on rent. It only protects renters who earn less than $99,000 per year or $198,000 for couples. 

 

You’ll have to complete a declaration form stating that the reason you’ve fallen behind on rent is directly related to the coronavirus pandemic, and you’ll have to confirm that you’ve tried to ‘obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing’. You would also have to declare that should you be evicted you would either become homeless or have to move into a ‘new residence shared by other people who live in close quarters’, which would obviously be a risk for spreading the coronavirus.

 

This moratorium only applies to people who have been unable to pay rent due to the pandemic, so for other causes of evictions, it’s still business as usual. This means that if you’ve done something illegal on the property or have broken your lease in other ways, you still risk being evicted.

Cause of Eviction

You can be evicted for a variety of reasons:

  • nonpayment of rent, or late payment;
  • violating terms of the lease such as having pets when they’re not allowed
  • causing substantial damage to the property
  • breaking any occupancy, noise, or health ordinances
  • causing health or safety hazards in the property

 

As mentioned above, you currently have protection from eviction for nonpayment of rent if it’s as a consequence of the pandemic.

How it Works

Every state will have different specific steps as to how an eviction works. Each state, city, and even town can have its own rules, regulations, and laws regarding eviction. However, there are some steps that will be the same across the nation. You can look at the rules specific to your state. Otherwise, read on to find out more about the eviction process.

The Notice

First of all, your landlord has to inform you that you are being evicted. They can’t just decide on a whim and suddenly you’re homeless. There are three main types of eviction notice that your landlord has at their disposal.

Pay Rent or Quit

If you’ve fallen behind on rent for reasons unrelated to COVID-19, your landlord might serve you this notice. This is where the landlord will give you the option to either pay the rent you owe or vacate the property - like a second chance. You’ll usually have a few days to come up with the money.

Cure or Quit

These are used if you’ve broken the terms of your lease, for example, having a pet in a no-pet apartment. You could also be served one of these notices if you’ve been reported by your neighbors as constantly being too noisy. It basically says that you have the chance to rectify whatever you’ve done wrong or leave. Again, a second chance.

Unconditional Quit 

This is the toughest type of notice to be served. It means you have to leave the property and don’t have a chance to remedy the situation. These are only used in specific cases, such as if a person is found dealing drugs from the property. For a full list of situations (by state) that warrant an unconditional quit notice, click here.

The Hearing

It is likely that you will have to attend a hearing to state your side of the case. It’s definitely worth going to this hearing - if you don’t, the judge may automatically rule against you. If you think that you’re being wrongfully evicted, take every single piece of evidence you have with you, to enable you to prove your side of the story.

The Appeal

If you lose your case at the hearing, you can still appeal the ruling. If you haven’t already, this would be a good time to consider hiring a professional attorney to help you out. This process can take weeks, months, or sometimes even years.

What a Landlord Can’t Do

Firstly, it can be important to know your rights as a tenant. There are certain things that your landlord cannot do as part of the eviction process.

 

  • Things your landlord cannot legally do include:
  • Remove you from the property by force
  • Remove your belongings from the property
  • Change the locks to lock you out of the property
  • Harass you to try to get you to leave
  • Arrange for essential utilities to be shut off (for example, electric, gas, water, etc.)
 
With protections in place to prevent evictions from occurring in cases where COVID-19 has impacted a person’s ability to pay rent, it is important to remember that it doesn’t cover you if you choose to break the lease in other ways. Make sure that you look up specific details for your state and town so you’re fully prepared should you ever find yourself on the wrong end of an eviction notice.