Housing expert: 30 million US renters ‘at risk of eviction’

·3 min read

As eviction protections set to expire across the United States, up to 30 million tenants may be at risk of being thrown out of their homes, according to one expert.

“We reached a number of 19 to 23 million tenants in the U.S. at risk of eviction, which is terrifying in this moment,” said Zach Neumann, co-founder of the COVID-19 Eviction Project, a community legal initiative, told Yahoo Finance recently. “Now we’re approaching 30 million tenants in the United States who may be at risk of eviction and that’s largely based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s survey data.”

His comments come after nearly a third of American renters missed their July rent payments, according to a study by Apartment List, an apartment listing website.

Worried woman reading a letter at home.
Worried woman reading a letter at home.

‘Tenants who live in federally covered properties are still protected’

Even those who were protected by the CARES Act will see the moratorium on evictions expire Monday. The law only applied to properties with federally backed mortgages for a 120-day window starting March 27.

Read more: Coronavirus: What if you can't pay your mortgage?

There still is an extra cushion for at-risk renters, Neumann said. A renter facing eviction is required to get a one-month advance notice.

“They’ll enter a 30-day notice period, so you wouldn’t start to see their evictions until early September,” Neumann said. “But I think in states where tenants are not covered by federal eviction moratorium or live in non-covered properties and where those states have lifted the eviction moratorium, you’re starting to see very significant numbers across the country.”

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This 30-day notice period will come with its own set of unique technical challenges, Neumann said.

“Zoom hearings are taking place around the country,” he said.

Typically, tenants facing eviction can respond to a court case against them by going to the courthouse. But many can’t access the Zoom hearings, meaning the court can enter a default because the renter didn’t show up.

“The early data in Colorado where I live and practice law suggests that in this very first part of the wave of evictions we expect to see, 96% of tenants have defaulted,” Neuman said.

Landlords are feeling the pain, too

Neumann acknowledged that landlords also share financial burdens during the pandemic.

“The flip side to all of this is of course landlords who say, ‘look, we’ve gotta pay our mortgage too,’” Neumann said. “If renters can’t make payment, there is a ripple effect that goes from there.”

About 5.45 million Americans aren’t confident they will make next month’s rent payment, according to the U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey covering July 9 to July 14.

Read more: How the pandemic could affect Black American home ownership rate

“I think the solution that protects both landlords and tenants is to provide significant federal rent relief either through the Heroes Act or whatever comes after the previously passed CARES Act,” Neumann said. “There are a lot of numbers being discussed, but putting money in people’s pockets lets them pay.”

Dhara is a reporter Yahoo Money and Cashay. Follow her on Twitter at @Dsinghx.

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