The extension of a federal ban on evictions during the pandemic has North Carolina tenant advocates cheering. But landlords worry that more lost income will hurt their businesses.
The ban applies only to evictions over non-payment of rent, where tenants can show they've lost their jobs or income. It began in September and has been extended twice before. It was supposed to expire Wednesday, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pushed that to June 30. The CDC notes that COVID-19 is still spreading and daily deaths remain higher than when the moratorium took effect Sept. 4.
Juan Hernandez of Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy said the extension makes sense, especially since billions of dollars in federal rental assistance has been slow to reach tenants and their landlords.
"Giving these extra three months gives tenants a real shot at actually getting this money funded and the process going all the way through and avoiding eviction," Hernandez said Monday. "And it gives the apartments a real shot at being made whole."
Federal aid packages have allocated $45 billion for rental assistance. Kim Graham of the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association said that's a great idea in theory, but it's taking too long.
"This is a yearlong slog of trying to keep renters in their homes and safe so that no one gets COVID or it's not exacerbated," Graham said. "But the flip side of that for rental housing providers is that they've been in a position to not receive rent from many of their renters for an entire year."
Graham compared that to working for a year without a paycheck.
She said agencies administering the rental assistance program haven't been able to keep up.
"There's been some logjams in terms of getting funds out the door and part of that is just the sheer volume of need here locally," Graham said. "It's probably the same way across the country. But the other part of that is just the lack of employees available to administer programs."
The National Apartment Association estimates that about 19% of North Carolina renters were behind on rent at the end of 2020. That's an estimated $829 million statewide over a year.
Isaac Sturgill of Legal Aid of North Carolina welcomed the extension but said he wishes the CDC had strengthened the moratorium. The problem, said Sturgill, is the tenant protections are not automatic. It's up to tenants to show why they should not be evicted.
"There's some other loopholes that landlords have figured out, and there's also just an enforcement problem with it as well," Sturgill said. "We do still see landlords in some cases that are filing cases and proceeding with evictions, even though the tenants should be protected."
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