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Rental Relief Needed Now

Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the January edition of DS News.

Beginning March 27, 2020, when President Trump signed the CARES Act into law, the state of evictions across the United States has resembled a roller-coaster. Tenants and landlords continue to
face uncertainty, inconsistency, and looming final actions whenever the ride ends.

The CARES Act placed a moratorium through the end of 2020, now extended through January 31, 2021, on foreclosures and evictions for loans owned by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, VA, and USDA, affecting about two-thirds of the single-family residential lending market.

The Federal Housing Administration, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Agriculture, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issued foreclosure and eviction moratoria that cover households living in properties insured or guaranteed by these agencies, which cover about 70% of all outstanding mortgage holders or 33.4 million homeowners. Homeowners with fully private
mortgages held by banks or private investors, about 14.6 million homeowners, were not covered.

As mentioned, eviction moratoria for the 70% of outstanding government-owned/ insured mortgages have been extended to January 31, 2021. More than two-thirds of the 44 million renter households reside in properties mortgaged to private lenders. Rental housing in the United States continues to grow, over 3 million twenty-unit or more apartment complexes since 2003. And more of those tenants pay more for housing—30% or more of household income.

VULNERABILITY OF TENANTS
There are a few factors that make tenants more vulnerable to eviction, in addition to the lack of the CARES moratoria. First, renters tend to have less income than homeowners. The median renters’ income in 2018 was $40,531 compared to $78,945 for homeowners. Renters also tend to have less savings, less access to credit, and lower job and income stability. Second, nearly 16.5 million renter
households have at least one worker in an industry impacted by the pandemic, namely food service, entertainment, and tourism.

Nearly 50 million people live in a renter household that experienced immediate job or income losses.

CURRENT MORATORIA
As of late November 2020, a total of twenty-four states, including four territories and the District of Columbia, have some type of eviction order in place, extending a moratorium on evictions or providing relief to tenants in eviction. A de facto moratoria caused by court closings and limited reopenings helped slow eviction proceedings. Other states rely upon the order issued on September 4, 2020, set to expire December 31, 2020, by the Centers for Disease Control that prohibits landlords/owners from evicting a tenant based upon public health concerns in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CDC order included a declaration form to be completed by tenants in an effort to avoid eviction by affirming under penalty that they have been financially impacted, and if evicted, would likely become homeless.

CALL TO ACTION
Consumer housing groups urgently call for rental relief action as we head into 2021, and they offer up numerous studies and data showing the dire and threatening environment for tenants, the majority of whom rely somewhat inadequately on the CDC order. It is noted that the CDC order does not necessarily prevent the sending of an eviction notice, or filing of an eviction case, or even the actual lockout, which is often dependent on the application by various state judges.

As an aside, there are not nearly as many studies completed on the pandemic’s impact on landlords, and researchers at Iowa State University launched a study focused on landlords as of September 16, 2020.  In deference to this publication, many scholarly articles on the impact of the pandemic on
default servicing industry have been and continue to be highlighted, though uncertainty exists about what will be the ultimate impact on tenants and on the overall country in relation to impacted tenants and landlords. Of the 44 million rental units in the U.S., about half are owned by individual investors, who are less likely to sustain continued loss of rental income compared to the other half of business entity investors.

WHAT COMES NEXT
There appears to be some basis in fact about a pending avalanche of evictions. At this time, most states lack eviction moratoria and housing assistance measures according to the COVID-19 Housing Policy Scorecard created by the Eviction Lab at Princeton University.

Courts across the country have resumed eviction hearings, and the Eviction Lab tracks in current time the number of evictions nationally. For example, as of November 28, 2020, in the 27 cities tracked by the Lab, 151,165 evictions have been filed, showing an upward trend since March 15, 2020. Global advisory firm Stout Risius Ross, LLC, estimates that 11.6 million evictions could be filed in the U.S. in the next four months. Compare that to the 61 million evictions filed between 2000 and 2016, an average of 3.6 million evictions annually.

Another Congressional stimulus bill looms on the horizon, along with a rise in COVID-19
cases and a pending vaccine that won’t be fully dispatched until the summer of 2021.

So, it looks like at least another six months of financial strain for the rental market.

About Author: Michelle Garcia Gilbert

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Michelle Garcia Gilbert is president and CEO of the Gilbert Garcia Group, a Florida firm specializing in default services, creditors law, and REO. She has worked in foreclosure and creditors firms since 1989.
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