Owe back rent? What you can do before the eviction moratorium ends

JOPLIN, Mo. – A federal judge has temporarily stayed a ruling that found the CDC exceeded its authority when it implemented a federal eviction moratorium last year.

The nation wide eviction ban was initially put into place last year by the Trump Administration to provide protection for renters facing hardship because of the pandemic. Experts with the CDC feared having families lose their homes would exacerbate the spread of COVID-19. The moratorium was extended through the end of June, 2021, by the Biden Administration.

On Wednesday, a federal judge in Washington D.C. struck down the eviction moratorium, saying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had overstepped their authority when issuing the federal evictions ban.

But, late Wednesday night, a federal judge in Washington granted a temporary stay of the order, meaning the moratorium will continue through the end of June. The stay came after the U.S. Justice Department filed an appeal to the original ruling.

The stay will give an estimated 4 million Americans a short reprieve. But, that reprieve is exactly that — short.

“These renters who have just been living for free are gonna be kind of out of luck anyway, because they are gonna owe all the back money that they did owe,” says Brian Carberry, Managing Editor for Rent.com. “Some of these renters that are behind are really gonna have to start getting in gear and figuring out what they need to do.”

Carberry says that renters need to be working on a plan to pay their back rent now, or they could be facing eviction once the moratorium does end. One simple piece of advice he offers for renters is to have a conversation with their landlord, and come up with a payment plan that works for everyone.

“I think, yes, landlords are gonna want to get their money back, but most people are human. I mean everyone’s human. But most people are gonna understand what you’re going through because they’ve been having financial difficulties too,” says Carberry.

There’s also a lot of grants and assistance program that renters can utilize to help pay their back rent, especially if their income was impacted in some way by the pandemic.

In Kansas, the biggest one is the Kansas Emergency Rental Assistance (KERA) program.

“They will pay back rent for you, and then going forward they will pay up to three months in advance for rent,” explains Tiffany Ronine, Resource Coordinator at SEK CAP. “So, if you have 12 months that you owe and then you need another three months, they could potentially pay all of that.”

To learn more about the program, and to apply, go here: https://kshousingcorp.org/emergency-rental-assistance/

In Missouri, the Missouri State Assistance for Housing Relief (SAFHR) program does the exact same thing as the KERA program in Kansas.

You can apply here: https://www.mohousingresources.com/safhr

In Oklahoma, renters can apply for rental assistance through the Community Cares Partners COVID-19 Relief program.

You can find more information on eligibility requirements and apply here: https://okcommunitycares.org/en/home/

All of these state wide programs utilize federal relief dollars from the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed in March. Experts recommend applying for the program in your respective state as soon as you can, since these dollars will go quickly.

If we go back to southeast Kansas, SEK Cap has several programs that they’re working on to help renters and others impacted by the pandemic. SEK CAP offers services to residents in 12 counties: https://www.sek-cap.com/services/services-avenues-to-success

SEK CAP is currently accepting applications for its rental assistance program, but the application deadline is fast approaching. It ends on May 14. The program assists qualifying individuals and families with rental subsidies and or security deposits and utility bills. You can find more information on how to apply here: https://sek-cap.com/services/housing