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Over 9 million homeowners and renters do not expect to be able to make their housing payments for November, according to the latest survey by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Many of those people are shielded from losing their homes to eviction or foreclosure through the end of the year, but the rules are confusing and there is uncertainty about what comes next. Some federal protections passed as part of the CARES Act in March still apply and government agencies have stepped in with patches to some that have expired.

Meanwhile, 16 states have their own eviction and foreclosure moratoriums in place that are either equal to or more robust than federal programs. Even in places where there is no state-mandated freeze, some city and local governments have successfully pushed for more robust protections.

In a few instances there have even been more protections pushed by cities in states that already have moratoriums in place. For example, while California already has extensive laws in place for those struggling to pay rent, the city of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors passed legislation banning no-fault evictions through the end of March 2021.

But questions remain about how gaps in these programs can be filled and whether or not the protections are pushing off the inevitable when the state of emergency comes to an end.

“What has not been addressed in any meaningful way, is that by the end of the year people nationwide will owe tens-of-billions of dollars in back rent that they just can’t pay back,” says Diane Yentel, President & CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

With each state having their own programs and interpretations of legislation, it can be difficult to know what does and does not apply to each individual situation. If you want to know more about your state’s specific eviction and foreclosure moratorium status or where to find more information based on your specific needs, you can find it below:

What federal protections do homeowners still have?

When the coronavirus pandemic began to take hold of Americans’ lives in March, Congress was swift to pass the CARES Act. In addition to providing stimulus checks and expanded unemployment benefits, the bill aimed to keep people from becoming homeless during the health crisis. Homeowners with federally-backed mortgages could not be foreclosed on and could claim forbearance, freezing their monthly payments for up to 12 months.

For homeowners with mortgages backed by government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Finance Agency has extended the foreclosure moratorium through the end of the year, meaning lenders that hold the loans cannot begin the foreclosure process before then (the ban was originally set to expire on August 31.) Borrowers who have suffered financial hardship due to the pandemic can also apply for forbearance, temporarily pausing their mortgage payments. (Homeowners who requested forbearance early in the pandemic and still need assistance will need to call their loan servicer to request another six-month deferral.)

The GSEs and other government loans cover about 70% of all mortgages. The remaining 30% of homeowners with private mortgages are not technically protected under federal law. Some banks are following federal guidelines, but they are only legally obligated to stop foreclosures in seven states.

What federal protections do renters still have?

The CARES Act also included a 120 day moratorium on most federally subsidized housing which covered around 30% of renters nationwide.

It doesn’t take a math whiz to notice that we’re well beyond the initial 120 days since these measures were taken — or that 60% of renters were left out of the initial legislation. While homeowners who qualified have the option to extend their forbearance after the initial six month period, renters and those with privately-backed mortgages have had to face terrifying uncertainty — especially in states that lack COVID-19 protections.

Some initially believed that President Trump included a sweeping eviction moratorium in a round of executive orders signed on Aug. 5, claiming that he was “protecting people from eviction.” In reality, the order told leaders of a few federal agencies to look into existing options for helping those on the brink of losing their homes.

About a month later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the Department of Health and Human Services, put out an agency order halting residential evictions for tenants who would otherwise be at risk of homelessness or at higher risk for contracting COVID-19 until the end of the year. The order applies to a broader group of people than the original moratorium outlined in the CARES Act.

Tenants have to certify under penalty of perjury that:

  1. They’ve used their “best efforts” to secure government housing and rental assistance.
  2. They expect to earn less than $99,000 in 2020 income ($198,000 if filing taxes jointly) or didn’t have to report any income to the IRS in 2019.
  3. They can’t pay their rent in full or make a full housing payment because they’ve lost their job, had to take an hour or pay cut, or are dealing with extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses.
  4. They’ve tried their best to make partial payments that are as close to the full payment as possible.
  5. If evicted, their only options would be homelessness or moving into a shared residence with multiple other people in close quarters.

Landlords have no obligation to tell tenants about the CDC moratorium. A report from the Private Equity Stakeholder Project found that large corporate landlords have filed 10,000 evictions in just five states since the moratorium went into effect, including multiple instances where tenants were not aware of the new moratorium.

Additionally, new guidance put out by the CDC on Oct. 9 weakens tenant protections and permits evictions with the caveat that evictees do not have to vacate the residence until after the moratorium expires. Without further expansions, the nation is likely to face an unprecedented crisis once again.

“We will see a tremendous number of evictions in the dead of winter during a COVID-19 spike,” says Yentel.

Questions also still remain on how repayment of rent owed will work. As of right now California is the only state to explicitly tell renters their missed payments are treated as a debt and should be paid back to the landlord over the course of a year. Residents of other states may only be delaying the inevitable when the freeze ends at the end of December. Plus as of now, nothing stops landlords from adding new fees or higher interest rates on top of rent that tenants already owe, according to an analysis from the Cato Institute.

What — if anything — is each state doing?

Alabama

Eviction status: CDC moratorium only

Foreclosure status: FHFA moratorium only

Those seeking assistance due to an eviction or foreclosure can contact Legal Services Alabama.

Alaska

Eviction status: CDC moratorium only

Foreclosure status: FHFA moratorium only

Those seeking assistance due to an eviction or foreclosure can contact Alaska Law Help.

Arizona

Eviction status: Arizona’s original state eviction moratorium expires on Oct. 31, but the CDC protections are already in place and more robust than the state moratorium.

Foreclosure status: FHFA moratorium only

You can find applications for assistance and find information on the state’s policies on the Arizona Department of Housing website.

Arkansas

Eviction status: Tenants can file a CDC moratorium form, but may still be ordered to evict and pay back rent after it expires.*

Foreclosure status: FHFA moratorium only

For legal advice, tenants and homeowners facing eviction or foreclosure can visit Arkansas Legal Services.

*Arkansas is the only state in the nation that allows landlords to file criminal charges for evictions. While landlords might not be able to evict a tenant until Jan. 1, it is still possible to be arrested for failure to vacate between now and then.

California

Eviction status: California’s eviction moratorium is quite complicated, but provides more protection than the CDC moratorium. Tenants who provide a declaration of hardship and pay at least 25% of their rent from now through Jan. 31, 2021 will be protected from eviction. If tenants don’t pay at least 25%, eviction proceedings can begin on Feb. 1. Renters will have one year to pay back the rent missed between Sept. 1 and Jan. 31.

Foreclosure status: California’s COVID-19 Small Landlord and Homeowner Relief Act of 2020 requires all mortgage lenders to comply with the FHFA moratorium on foreclosures, regardless of loan type.

A full breakdown of the legislation can be found on Gov. Newsom’s official website.

Colorado

Eviction status: Colorado's eviction moratorium was reinstated on Oct. 21 and bars landlords from evicting anyone who has proven to be experiencing a financial hardship due to COVID-19.