President Trump’s eviction moratorium falls short of calls to cancel rent and mortgage

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Tenants and progressive leaders who have called for national action must now face two truths: This eviction moratorium will save lives, but everything about it is a page from Trump’s re-election playbook.


This article is a commentary part of The Appeal’s collection of opinions and analysis.

This commentary is part of The Appeal’s collection of opinions and analysis.

Tuesday, when the rent was due again and 43 million Americans prepared for possible deportation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a national advisory moratorium on evictions which will take place from Friday to December 31.

This moratorium on evictions, unlike that provided for by the CARES Act Policy which expired at the end of July, seems to apply to all rental accommodation in the country. Now, whether or not they receive federal funding, landlords cannot evict their tenants due to their inability to pay rent.

The order applies anywhere there isn’t a more protective state moratorium in effect, such as in Missouri and Alabama, where governors have never issued nationwide eviction protections. of State. But that does not prevail over jurisdictions that offer the same or greater protections to tenants.

The CDC’s order responds to months of outcry from organizers, tenants and policymakers, taking a decisive stand: Ending evictions is a public health imperative. The order reads: “In the context of a pandemic, eviction moratoriums – such as quarantine, isolation and social distancing – can be an effective public health measure used to prevent the spread of disease. transferable.”

In order to benefit from this protection, tenants must declare their inability to pay to their landlord, by means of a form provided by the CDC (and included in the text of Tuesday’s order). Renters are eligible to make this return if they earn less than $99,000 a year or less than $198,000 as a household, weren’t required to report income in 2019, or received a stimulus check.

The CDC’s nationwide eviction moratorium could keep millions of renters in their homes until the new year, and in turn, it could save countless lives as COVID-19 remains an active threat. But, of course, it’s not that simple.

Several caveats limit the potential scope of the moratorium.

The requirement that tenants swear they meet certain criteria based on income and need may exclude some tenants, such as undocumented immigrants and participants in the informal economy, such as domestic workers and food vendors , who may not have standard documentation of their salaries.

Tenants will need to certify that they are unable to pay their rent due to the coronavirus, that they are at risk of homelessness due to displacement and that they have done their best to obtain any government assistance available to them for rent. These requirements are vague, which could benefit tenants, but could also leave too much subjectivity in the hands of landlords.

We know landlords will find ways to evict and get revenge on their tenants because it’s already happening. The eviction moratorium only affects rent-related evictions. Landlords can still evict their tenants based on a lease violation, for example, a noise complaint. Landlords will continue to pursue informal evictions using intimidation tactics such as shutting down utilities, denying repairs, etc. Tenants and organizers will need to closely monitor local trends and be prepared to challenge landlords who exploit loopholes, escaping the parameters of this moratorium.

Tenants will still have to pay rent, debt will pile up, and landlords will continue to profit from their control over tenants’ most basic need: their housing. The CDC order does not prevent tenants from accumulating rental debt, nor does it prevent landlords from continuing to charge fines, fees and interest. Owners have invented all sorts of profit-maximizing machines, like pet lockers, trash fees, and more. The threat of such costs and the associated debt can themselves be used as a bullying tactic to force tenants out of their units. Rental debts follow tenants even after an eviction, through wage garnishments and poor credit scores.

Finally, legal challenges are likely. Almost immediately after the announcement, attorneys, reporters and tenants began to question the CDC’s authority to take such action. From now on, the order will take effect on Friday, but it will almost certainly face legal challenges. Even if these challenges fail, they will undoubtedly confuse tenants and could complicate local enforcement.

The Trump administration has was quick to celebrate the national eviction moratorium as his offering to working families. But that shouldn’t be blamed on Trump. This is a victory for tenants. Tenants have orchestrated a mass rebellion since March, sharing their storiesorganizing their buildings, and performing the greatest rent strike in history. Meanwhile, Trump and Republican leaders in Congress have mostly ignored the worsening of the emergency among poor tenants and workers.

All those who have called for a national response to protect tenants must now face two truths: This moratorium on evictions will save lives, protecting tens of millions of homes from violent displacement.although for a relatively short periodand everything in that order is political, a page from Trump’s re-election playbook.

We must recognize that governors and mayors, including many Democrats, failed to protect tenants before the Trump administration took this step. As the pandemic rages on, it appears real estate interests have tightened their grip on state and local officials from both major political parties. Ignoring the impending eviction and homelessness crisis was never going to serve the Democrats, and now they have been overwhelmed by Trump.


“Does this apply to me?” That was Ashley Johnson’s first question when I called her on Tuesday to tell her about the moratorium. Ashley is a tenant in Kansas City, Missouri, and a local leader of KC Tenants, the local organization I lead. A single mother of three, she works several jobs, but employers reduced her hours at the end of March, and since then she has struggled to stay housed.

Ashley’s landlord kicks her out and it gets messy. Last Wednesday, Ashley’s landlord sent maintenance workers to her home while Ashley was in the office. They shoved Ashley’s teenage daughter to remove the family’s stove. On Friday, Ashley returned home with a disconnection notice from the utility company. Ashley is due in eviction court on Thursday, but she has already been forced out of her home.

The CDC’s eviction moratorium does not apply to Ashley. She is not being evicted for unpaid rent, but for possession of the property. The landlord just doesn’t want to “deal with tenants” anymore and she’s using COVID-19 as an excuse to get Ashley out. Ashley will still have to appear in court via teleconference tomorrow morning, and the judge is likely to issue a formal eviction order. Ashley will have to find a new home.

Too many tenants are in Ashley’s situation. The owners filed dozens of thousands evictions during the pandemic. Tenants have been evicted because they live in a place where there has never been a moratorium on evictions, or because their moratorium has expired, or because their landlord forced them out through an informal process, outside of the court system. The CDC’s moratorium provides no recourse for already displaced tenants.

Some tenants like Ashley collected their rent month after month, even though they couldn’t afford it. Others have been pushed into high-risk jobs to pay the bills. Due to the inaction of policymakers, these tenants put their lives at risk and paid their last savings to their landlords, sacrificing other basic needs, to meet their rent obligation. It didn’t have to be like this.

Tenants know this better than anyone: eviction moratoriums were never going to save us, at least not on their own. This is why tenants have required to rent and mortgage cancelation, combined with a nationwide eviction moratorium, since March. The Tenants worked closely with Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota to present House Resolution 6515, The Cancellation of Rents and Mortgages Act, in April. The bill would cancel rent and mortgage payments for the duration of the crisis and offer conditional relief to some landlords. No rents, no late fees, no debts.

For now, tenants and organizers will spread the word about the CDC’s eviction moratorium, let their neighbors know their rights, continue to unionize, and track landlord noncompliance and retaliation. Lawyers will need to defend the legality of this eviction moratorium and seek sufficient local enforcement.

Lawmakers must cancel rents and mortgages so tenants aren’t stuck with large, insurmountable debt in January. And in the long run, the federal government must take drastic action to dismantle the American housing system that puts landlords’ profits ahead of tenants’ lives; we must guarantee housing as a public good.

Tara Raghuveer is director of the Homes Guarantee campaign, based at People’s Action, a national network of grassroots organizations committed to economic and racial justice. She is also the director of KC Tenants, an organization run by a base of poor and working Kansas City tenants.

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