As a lawyer, landlord, and former renter, I’m not a big fan of “eviction relief” right now. In the short term, it hurts landlords. In the long term, it will hurt renters. Low-income renters tend to be segregated into clusters of rental properties/neighborhoods. What will happen with eviction relief, is that they will continue to occupy rental properties without paying rent. Meanwhile, these properties continue to pay taxes, utilities, etc.
These properties often have lower profit margins, and they may choose to close altogether. This means all tenants of those properties will lose their homes, even those who were paying rent but who may still have a harder time finding a new place. It’s bad for renters.
Consider the eviction “relief” recently announced by the New York State Senate. Under new legislation, tenants unable to pay rent due to Covid-related hardships will be protected from eviction until May 1, 2021. This does not excuse renters from any obligations to pay rent, and it does not prevent evictions after that date. The legislation also protects residential properties from disclosure until May 1 for failure to pay rent, provided those properties have 10 or fewer units. It does not protect properties with 11 or more units.
Under many states’ eviction “relief” bills (including the New York legislation), the renters are still liable for rent payments and late rent charges. So those bills add up, and will have to be paid in full when the “relief” period ends. Or the renters will be in breach of their leases now for failure to pay, and the landlords are just waiting for the “relief” period to end, at which point they will evict regardless. These states’ aren’t preventing evictions, but are rather delaying them.
If states want a fix without a long-term crash, they should give renters money to pay rent. In addition, these bills should prevent evictions for tenants who are able to pay overdue rent after a certain period. Currently, most bills allow tenants to be evicted for a failure to pay rent for a previous month, even if the tenant is able to pay of the overdue rent before the end of the “eviction relief” period. We should also look into what creates these sorts of pressures. One thing I would be interested in exploring is requiring rental properties with a certain number of units to set aside a certain percentage of those units for renters on housing assistance programs.
Chris Damian is a writer, speaker, attorney, and business professional living in the Twin Cities. He received his B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame and his J.D. and M.A. in Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas. He is the author of “I Desired You: Intellectual Journals on Faith and (Homo)sexuality” (volumes I and II). He is also the co-founder of YArespond, a group of Catholic young adults seeking informed and holistic responses to the clergy abuse crisis. In his free time, he enjoys hosting dinner parties and creative writing workshops.